Where the Moon is God – Chapter 1

You can read the first part of Where the Moon is God via the link below:

Where the Moon is God – Prologue

I hope you enjoy reading!


Theodore considered himself to be a generally very calm and collected individual. He was reverent and deeply religious, a monk who worshipped God as truly and faithfully as any man could. His mind was free of wicked thoughts, his body of sinful deeds. He had escaped from the evils of the world many years ago, delivered himself to a better place – a purer place – and forgiven those who had done him wrong.

It was rare for him, with all his composure, to be haunted by nightmares. Bad dreams were the only dreams he tended to have, when he had them, and they disturbed him deeply. There was no word he could think of to describe what simply terrifying things his unconscious mind was able to invent.

He lived in a large monastery in the country, isolated enough for the monks there to enjoy the world around them without getting too involved in its affairs. If nature could not calm his thunderous heart, then there was nothing that could. Nature, it seemed, was all out of ideas this time.

He settled himself down quietly in the middle of a small room in the monastery. It was a part of the building largely reserved for meditation. Theodore was cross-legged on the floor, his eyes closed and his bottom lip quivering with effort, but his hopes of reaching the tranquillity that meditation usually granted him proved fruitless. It had been many months, perhaps even a year, since Theodore had woken in the middle of the night in a cold sweat; the previous night had been a cruel reminder that he would never wholly defeat his demons.

It had been unlike any other night he could remember. He had tossed and turned in his tiny bed for hours, too hot one minute and shivering with cold the next. Once he had gotten to sleep, he had seen images of demons and inhuman monsters flashing through his mind. They had been hungry creatures, searching for their prey – searching for Theodore. He had thrown himself violently from side to side, as though kicking at the thin bedcovers might get them off his scent and end the dream. In the early hours of the morning, he had woken with a throbbing headache, after three mere hours of rest.

He had climbed out of his bed and walked over to the tiny window, bent his neck to see out of it, and looked up at the sky. The full moon had stared back at him and he had put the nightmare down to a superstitious mind that should have known better. After a few minutes walking back and forth in his room waiting for his pulse to return to normal, he had climbed back into his bed and attempted to return to sleep, but it had eluded him. Eventually, there had been movement from outside of his room, and giving upon sleep he prepared himself for the day, with a head that was still throbbing.

Seated on the floor of the cool room, the sun shining down upon him from a high window, he could tell him foolish he had been to be frightening of made-up monsters. It was never easy to see that in the darkness, when all kinds of people could imagine all kinds of things with little persuasion. Demons were real, of course, but then it was not the demons that caused him to cower like a child. Wild dogs could have been a danger, if he slept out in the open, but what he had dreamt of had been able to turn from a man into a wolf and back again, apparently at will.

Most enlightened scholars had rejected the concept of werewolves. Theodore had read a lot on the topic – certainly more than he was supposed to have read – but he had never seen any plausible argument to suggest that they were, or had ever been, real. There were strange creatures out there, far away in eastern countries, but England was not brimming with monsters. There was no reason for him to be afraid.

As much as demons could taunt him by inventing these nightmares, he would be able to overcome them. He had his faith. He had painstakingly trained himself over many years not to want or lust for anything, and so demons posed no threat to him. All that Theodore had to do was chuckle to himself until he remembered that werewolves were not real; anyone else in the monastery would have told him the same.

He would not talk to just anyone, of course. If he wanted to share what he had seen behind his closed eyes, then he would choose to speak with someone who was not going to judge him. There were few in the monastery who he felt would react in the right way: he did not want sage advice or some foul-tasting drink that was supposed to prevent him from having further nightmares. He wanted someone who would listen and nod, and then tell him he was an idiot once he had finished speaking.

First, however, he needed to calm his mind. Theodore knew that he was too distracted to concentrate. The fear that had gripped him when he had first woken had faded away slowly, until it had become little more than a silly memory. Something remaining behind, something he was unable to name. Something that puzzled him.

He could only vaguely remember the last time that a nightmare had woken him and shook him to his core. The rarity of bad dreams only served to make them feel more intense. He remembered how cold he had been when he had shot out of bed, exactly like this time, shaking as though from a fever, freezing despite the heat of the night. Questions had filled his mind that time, too.

How was his unconscious mind able to generate so many grizzly images, when he had done everything within his power to live a life of charity and simplicity? He had never seen a man beaten, stabbed, or ripped to pieces, so how was he able to imagine those tortures so vividly? He had an idea of them from descriptions and the odd image in texts, and although he could appreciate both he knew that there was a clear distinction between those and real life.

Apparently, his lack of witnessing anything gruesome could not stop his brain from filling in the gaps of his knowledge: the guts that he had seen spilling out onto the ground had seemed all too real, not just some sketch on a sheet of parchment by a skilled hand but something that was there, right in front of his eyes. He had dreamt of people taking their last breaths, choked gasps still echoing around in his ears.

Theodore shook his head as though this might dislodge the thoughts from his brain, breathing slowly and deeply to clear his mind. It was unsuccessful.

With such vivid images still swirling around in his head, meditation proved useless. For the first time in a long while, he abandoned his morning routine, resigning himself to some breakfast so that he could try again on a full stomach. This was not the way that he was supposed to do things, but he was shaken up, and that was a good enough excuse to adapt his behaviour.

The bread and the water that he had every morning were bland and tasteless. They did nothing to improve his mood. A silent prayer at the table helped to appease him slightly, and his worries faded somewhat as he felt the comforting feeling of the holy watching over him. Not long after he had finished his prayer, he was joined on the wooden bench by another monk.

The newcomer placed his bowl down on the table with a clunk and looked at Theodore with a grin that was far too cheery.

‘Good morning, Theo!’ the new arrival said, the grin turning into an even wider beam that split his face in two. It was a look that Theodore had seen opposite him every morning for many long years, something that would always manage to cheer him up, as though the other man’s happiness was somehow infectious. It did not seem to work on that morning. It was not a good morning, and no amount of saying that it was a good morning was going to make it one. Theodore mustered up the happiest voice he could.

‘Good morning, Thomas.’ He sighed, then ran a hand over his eyes, trying to shake the strange feeling that he was still in the dream. ‘You sound as though you might burst into song at any moment.’ Theodore paused, cocking his head to one side as he studied Thomas. ‘Please refrain.’

‘The sun is bright. It’s a beautiful day!’ Thomas ignored Theodore’s comment and continued to smile. He picked up his bread, tore some off, and examined it playfully before putting it in his mouth. Theodore watched, unable to hide his amusement.

‘Do we thank the Lord for this glorious sunshine?’ he asked Thomas, holding a piece of bread up himself and moving it between his fingers; it was a little too hard and a little too dry. They both knew the question was not serious.

‘Theo, we are Englishmen,’ Thomas replied. ‘When we get sunshine, we definitely thank the Lord.’

They chuckled quietly, mindful that some of the other monks had made vows of silence and that their whimsical conversation would not be encouraging to those devoted men. The pair shared a meaningful glance before returning to their meals, a look that said they were both glad to be in the other’s company. Theodore wondered whether anything had bothered Thomas in the night but did not ask. Thomas would want Theodore to discuss his own dream in fair exchange.

It was not long before Thomas spoke again. He had always enjoyed talking a little too much and Theodore had drawn attention to this more than once, but this was hardly enough to stop the man. Thomas pushed his half-empty bowl into the middle of the table, rested his elbows on the table, and leant on his hands, looking across at Theodore. Theodore put down his water, waiting for whatever the other wanted to say.

‘Have you heard the news from Lincoln?’

Theodore simultaneously grinned and sighed in exasperation. He shook his head slowly, chuckling to himself. Thomas seemed to know every scrap of information brought to the monastery before any other man, and his wide, excited eyes could not hide the fact that he considered this information to be something special.

‘You should stop your gossiping, brother Thomas,’ Theodore warned with a waggle of his finger. ‘It is not so good for the soul.’ He knew that the other monk was not going to finish speaking until he had shared everything he knew with Theodore, but then Thomas knew that Theodore wanted to hear it. Theodore liked to think that this was because Thomas knew how to tell a good story, but not even a monk could tire of good gossip.

‘Nonsense! I am not gossiping! It is news!’

‘Very well,’ Theodore said, still laughing quietly. The playful glance that Thomas shot him encouraged him to give in, a sly look that the other man had been able to pull off since well before they had arrived at the monastery. ‘Come, come then, brother Thomas, and tell me what news comes from Lincoln today.’

Thomas shuffled about in his seat as though the wait between announcing that he had news and Theodore asking to hear it had been too much for him, then moved his elbows off the table, his eyes fixed on Theodore’s. There was a moment of hesitation, a stillness that hung between them during which there was nothing else in the universe but them, before Thomas spoke. It was a pleasant moment: they had known one another before they had become monks and had always treated one another as brothers, although they were not related either by blood or marriage. Each man could read the other purely at a glance. Thomas was excited but also uncomfortable about what he had to say.

‘There were some horrible animal attacks inside the city walls last night,’ he finally said, unable to pass his voice off as casual. ‘I heard the news from my brother. He says he’s been keeping an eye on them.’

‘This news has come quick,’ Theodore commented.

‘You know Henry. He sent a messenger out here before the sun had even come up – he must have suspected something was going to happen and sent his messenger as soon as it did. He likes to keep me informed about goings-on in the city.’

Theodore nodded; Thomas’ brother often fuelled his gossip. ‘Wait – what do you mean? Is he looking out for attacks?’ he asked. He was shocked at the topic: animal attacks were rare in cities, especially in those with a wall. ‘Have there been others?’

‘Henry says there were some killings last month, too,’ Thomas explained. He picked up another piece of bread from his bowl and chewed on it for a few moments before continuing. Theodore had given up on his own bread. ‘He says the bodies were all of sinners – well, you know the sort of people who wander around cities at night – and they seem to have been attacked by some wild beast, something with huge claws and gigantic teeth. He thinks it’s probably a wild dog. Three were killed last night: one woman of the night, one gambler, one adulterer.’  Thomas counted them off on his fingers, the slender digits unfurling slowly. ‘Three also last month, and three the month before that.’ He reached nine and held his hands in front of Theodore’s face, as though this reiterated some point Theodore was missing. ‘He doesn’t think it will stop.’

‘It sounds as though he might be right.’

‘Yes. The constable got involved last month.’

‘They don’t appear to have done much.’

‘According to Henry, they killed a lot of dogs in the city, not that it’s done any good. There were a few suspects, too.’

‘People?’ Theodore raised his eyebrows, watching Thomas carefully. ‘Human suspects?’

‘Yes, well … Henry says all nine victims were morally corrupt.’ Thomas frowned. ‘It sounds strange … he did say they look like animal attacks, but you wouldn’t think an animal would be able to get past the wall or the guards month after month. Animals would go after anyone, maybe the guards themselves, not nine sinners … it sounds as though the constable will be baffled. Henry is baffled. He thinks our opinions on the matter might be useful.’

Theodore stared across the table at Thomas, his face blank, as he thought to himself. He watched the other man finish his bread and water and saw Thomas eyeing what was left in Theodore’s bowl.

‘Take it,’ he said, not wishing to be distracted from his thoughts. Thomas thanked him and snatched the bowl away, scooping up the last piece of bread and finishing it off. ‘Let me think for a while.’

‘Of course, brother,’ Thomas replied. He too fell into a thoughtful silence. Theodore watched the other man for a while, wondering what advice he would be able to offer that might help or comfort Thomas’ brother. Murders were not the forte of a monk.

This was not the first time Henry had asked for their advice, but it had only ever been matters of religion before. He had been a great support to them when they had been young, when they had played together despite the insistence of both sets of parents that they were from separate worlds and should stay that way. When the time had come, he had helped them to set off on the long path to become monks, and so they tried to assist him whenever he requested it.

If the truth was to be told, Thomas had always had an interest in things that should not have concerned him, which was how he had become friends with Theodore – a poor child with almost no education at the time – in the first place. This might have been another example of Thomas trying to get involved in something he should not, but that kind of thinking would not help Henry. It would be wrong to ignore these deaths based on Thomas’ over interest.

Theodore emerged from his thoughts to notice that Thomas had not come to a useful conclusion either. He tried to go back into his own mind, but found distracting questions floating to the front of his mind and slammed his fist down onto the wooden table in frustration.

Thomas jumped. The other monks, seated at the surrounding tables, jumped. The whole room stared at Theodore, who muttered a feeble apology about needing to meditate more and waited for the rest of the room to go back to their breakfasts before he spoke to Thomas.

‘Does Henry really think we can come to any kind of conclusion about what could have done this?’ he asked. ‘Man, woman, demon, wild dog … I doubt we can give your brother anything more than he already has. We will be no more helpful than the constable. Yes, there are wild dogs in the forests around this monastery and yes, they could get to the city and back in a night with ease. As far as I know, they live in packs, and they do not go beyond the treeline, otherwise we ourselves would be unsafe.’

‘Someone would surely spot a wild pack,’ Thomas agreed. ‘I think Henry just wants any help he can get.’

‘That, I understand. I’m not saying that I’m not convinced it isn’t an animal. I’m just saying … I … don’t know what I’m saying. Even if it is an animal, there seems to be no way to find it unless it is caught in the act. There are so many, but … no, no, I don’t believe it was an animal.’

‘Neither do I,’ said Thomas. ‘Which begs the question: what is it? You think a person can tear people apart, cut deeper than bone, and that they would eat …’ he stalled, one hand over his mouth, as though trying not to be sick. ‘Because I don’t think a human would.’

Theodore scratched his chin thoughtfully and noticed that he needed to shave. ‘I don’t think so, either. Do you know what I could do? I could message my friend Matthew, the monk from St. Albans. He likes to document strange things that happen, so he might have come across something like this before. You remember him, don’t you?’

‘Yeah, I remember him. Good man. Likes to talk.’

‘It might take some time for him to reply, and he might not have anything to say, but …’

‘But it’s worth a shot,’ Thomas finished for Theodore. ‘I’ll tell Henry you’ll write to Matthew, but we should also think of some suggestions of our own. He’s evidently very concerned about his parishioners being targeted like this.’

‘Wait – his parishioners were targeted?’ Theodore asked. This was beginning to sound less like a wild dog and more like the work of someone or something evil and sinister that was targeting specific people.

‘Yes … all nine of them were his.’ Thomas picked at a few crumbs that remained in the bottom of his bowl and scowled. ‘Do you think this food is getting worse? Anyway, the constable had guards stationed around the area last night, like they knew it was going to be there. No idea whether they saw anything, though. Apparently, there have only been a handful of sightings of this thing. Henry say’s he’s spoken to people who have seen it but not got much from them. Stories of vague shapes and monsters lurking in the shadows. Well, you know how people make things up sometimes.’

He paused, still playing with the crumbs. Theodore waited for Thomas to continue. ‘That’s not even the weirdest thing about it,’ Thomas said eventually. ‘You see, all nine of them had confessed their sins to Henry shortly before they had died … within the month of their deaths, as far as Henry can remember. He wrote that none had been ready for forgiveness, and had not taken their penances seriously.’

Theodore could not hide his surprise. ‘How very strange. They are sinners,’ he pointed out, a shake of his head accompanying the final word, ‘and it is the cities that breed them. They’re everywhere in populated areas; whenever you look, wherever you turn, there they are. Maybe it’s a coincidence … but it would be an impressive coincidence indeed. Your brother does take a lot of confessions, and not all of those people are able to drag themselves out of the corruption of the city as easily as we did.’

Thomas nodded in agreement. He glanced around himself and kept his voice low to avoid being overheard. ‘I suppose there’s always the possibility that it’s someone close to Henry. My brother seems to be contemplating divine involvement, or even retribution. All things happen for a reason.’

‘I don’t want to think it could be someone Henry knows,’ Theodore replied, ‘and divine intervention, even in the case of the worst sinners, is extremely rare. Could all nine really have done enough to warrant it? God would have been willing to forgive them, when they were ready.’

Theodore was stumped. It was Thomas who brought up the final possibility.

‘It might be a demon,’ he said, his voice barely more than a whisper. ‘That sounds like the most realistic option to me. A demon is roaming the city, punishing souls that do not see the light.’

‘It could be a demon,’ Theodore agreed, his own voice only a breath. ‘It could be.’

He left the statement there and fell silence once more. Theodore did not like to put words in God’s mouth and always liked to ensure he had clear evidence before crying out his support for something. He had been that way ever since his father had first encouraged him to embrace Christianity fully and join the church, then only a boy. That was how he had first met Thomas, and their relationship had developed from there. Theodore wanted to know that there was no chance that these attacks were being caused by an animal before advising Henry to protect himself and his flock from something far more sinister.

Advertisements

Where the Moon is God – Prologue

The sleeping city lay under a thick fog that granted occasional glimpses of the moon. It kept the prying eyes of heaven off what was happening below, where a young woman’s life hung in the balance.

She had been running down the dark streets for what seemed like forever. Her gown flapped around behind her loosely, rustling with her every step. Heavy make-up, revealing clothing, and a stench of sex gave away her profession, her filth lingering behind her in the darkness.

If there had ever been a time when she would live to see the dawn, it had long since passed. The only course of action that remained to her was to delay the inevitable.

It was becoming harder with every step: she was exhausted.

She had been chased through the streets at night before, by angry men who had taken advantage of her and then returned at a later hour to take back the money they had paid her. But this time, her pursuer was no man – it was something far more sinister, more monstrous than anyone who threatened her with cruel words or solid fists could ever have been. Fear was something she knew well, but tonight … this was a new kind of terror.

The narrow, cobbled streets she ran through were devoid of human life, but then no passer-by would have stopped to help her once they spotted the monster at her heels. Not to save a woman of the night.

The ragged breath that struck the back of her legs sent shivers up her spine; the hairs on the back of her neck stood on end at the feeling. She screamed as her chest began to tighten, tears welling up in the corners of her eyes.

She turned sharply to the right, down a hidden passageway that led onto the next street. Not fooled, her pursuer flew around the corner after her, spitting and snarling. It wanted her to remember it was there; she was hardly likely to forget. In fact, the part of her mind that could still concentrate on something other than panic and faster and death was convinced that it was toying with her. Twice she had thought she had escaped, and twice it had jumped at her out of nowhere, continuing their pursuit.

It was a swift and powerful beast, bouncing off the ground on four lean legs, the occasional sharp claw scraping across a stone. The whore ran barefoot ahead, leaving a trail of blood in her wake and trying her best to ignore the pain.

Barks, growls, and crueller sounds filled her ears. They were the sorts of noises she had only heard before in her nightmares. The beast grunted and snarled like a creature of no natural origin.

She knew what it was. There was only one thing it could possibly be. She was being chased through the streets by a demon. It was proof that her sins had condemned her to hell, proof that there was nothing but torture awaiting her in the next life.

The woman tried to turn left, but the creature snapped at her and forced her to go right instead. She realised her mistake immediately when she came to the bottom of a steep, cobbled hill, too fatigued to climb. Stumbling onwards regardless, she tripped and caught herself, then picked her feet up and focused herself on the ascent. That small portion of her mind again told her that the beast was waiting for her to collapse, waiting for her most vulnerable moment.

When that moment came, she would feel the true power of the monster. She had seen it only for a moment, right before the chase had begun, but the image had seared itself onto her irises. It had wide, staring eyes and enormous teeth. It was covered in black and grey fur, water droplets clinging onto the longer hairs from the heavy downfall that had engulfed the city earlier that night. The largest of its teeth, a pair of yellow fangs, had promised to tear through her clothes and skin with ease.

It was the pitch-black eyes that had scared her the most about the creature, their soulless glare deeply unnerving. The beast had stared at her intimately, eagerly, as though it had been assessing her, before she had overcome her initial feeling of shock and started to run.

Close to the top of the hill, she turned and tripped around a sharp corner, then flew straight into the wall of a house and landed on the ground with a huff. If anyone from the nearby houses was woken by the sound of her fall, none of them came outside to see what was going on.

She realised in that moment that it was over.

The creature was on her in an instant. A pair of huge, sabre-like teeth sunk into one of her shoulders; she screamed out into the night, but still nobody came outside. With teeth and claws it dug through flesh and bone, scattering what little she had been wearing and creating a bloody mess as the beast devoured her with haste. For all of the patience it had shown during the chase, it was evidently desperate to feed. She was not left to scream for long; an assault on her neck left her vocal chords scattered down the alley.

A barely audible gurgle signalled the final moment of the whore’s physical life, and then her suffering ended.

*

Blood and small pieces of skin dangled sloppily from the hairs around the beast’s mouth. It took a final bite before leaving the carcass of the whore in the alley, to be found by some unsuspecting person the following morning. She had been a hasty feast that it had eaten its way through in under a minute.

The animal sped off, far from satisfied. Keen eyes adapted to the night sought out a second victim. Real food came once a month, and only human flesh could truly please it.

And the chase – the game it played – was a celebration of its freedom. Like real food, freedom only came once a month. For the rest of the time, the creature was a prisoner, trapped inside the body of a human who had no idea that it was there and knew nothing of what happened when the monster took over.

It was incredibly smart and had great mental strength. The more people it tore apart and devoured, the stronger it seemed to become. It was sly enough to allow its human host to live their normal life, oblivious to the beast within, and ready to take over should it become threatened.

There, within that human, it had grown. A prisoner trapped inside a human-cell. The longer it had been in there, the more it had yearned for release, until it had been willing to do anything to escape. One day, it would take complete control of the body they shared, and then it would be the human trapped within the body of the beast.

There was nothing it thought about more than destroying the human: it was obsessed. Yet it was also patient, incredibly so. Patience was something it had always known.

Not much longer. Not much longer. Soon, it would be able to take control more frequently, and feed increasingly often. That was when it would be able to strike. The human would know the unnatural, unstoppable pain of being trapped inside a body that was not their own.

It was hardly the first to kill for freedom.

*

The second feed was easy for the beast to find. The only people who were out in the city at that hour were slow, easy targets, with no idea of what was lurking in the shadows.

He was a scruffy-looking man sneaking about at the back of a gambling den, probably looking for coins that had been dropped on the ground. The downward spiral of addiction encouraged by the city was evident on him. In a way, the monster would be doing him a favour.

After a while, the man gave up searching for coins and set off down the street, the beast following him. His life and death were under its command.

They walked for some time, the human staggering from side-to-side and muttering to himself, clearly intoxicated; the beast following without a sound. This was going to be a poor hunt, but chasing the screaming prostitute had been extremely satisfying and the animal knew it would be best to lay low after her deafening shrieks. The game was not an essential part of the hunt.

The gambler paused at the corner of a house, leaning against the wall to catch his breath. He did not seem to have the ability to run in him. Having no desire to continue the crawl, the beast took its chance and struck.

It leapt at the man and sunk its teeth into his neck, digging its fangs deep into the skin and slicing across his neck, leaving a trail of blood. The gambler did not even have a chance to see who his attacker was, dead before he hit the ground; the creature devoured his limp body just as it had done the harlot’s. Like her, the taste of his sins mingled with his flesh. A stink of impiety and negativity came off the meat, foul even to the beast’s nose. It could taste and smell every crime, every wrong, every immoral action the man had ever committed, from the first lie to the drinking and the gambling of that night.

The feast finished, the beast skulked away. One more meal to finish off the night, and then the creature would spend its remaining few hours wandering around the countryside, where it could chase wild animals and quietly observe the pack of wild dogs that lived in the nearby forest. They were instinctive animals without the same intelligent level conscious thought that the beast possessed, but it yearned to live as they did nonetheless. A simple life. An animalistic life.

Perhaps it could persuade them to allow it to join their pack. It would take some time. The beast was more powerful than any of them, strong enough to tear a man in two. It would continue to hunger for the taste of human flesh, like none of the others did, because it knew the power of that precious meat, but life with the wild dogs would be easy. It could live as nature had intended, no matter how unique it was.

The first few times that it had taken control from the human, it had not killed. It had done nothing more than enjoy its newfound freedom. Back then, the creature had believed it could have done anything; it had come to understand that it would have to suffer before it could do the things that others took for granted.

It tried to behave as the wild dogs behaved, to follow its instincts and do what felt natural. As the clouds drifted across the sky slowly, the full moon came into view, and instinct kicked in: the creature stood on its two back legs and reared up, howling at the moon, the only god it would ever answer to. The full moon was a blessing, the sign of its monthly night of freedom.

It would grow hungry in the last few days before the full moon. By the time it took control, it was usually ravenous. The beast would be desperate for the taste of skin and blood; sometimes it became so needy that its human host would crave large amounts of meat too. Two minds did not fit well in one body and one could have an impact upon the other without either of them noticing.

A third victim was close – the beast could sense it. They came out at night, the sinners. A part of the creature wanted to punish them for what they had done, perhaps a way that it could justify what it did, to carry out the work of the being that humans called God and purge society of their filth. It was a message to those who remained alive that they should live better lives and avoid immorality.

The last meal was not difficult for the monster to find, but he was accompanied by another person: a young girl, who he had been having an adulterous relationship with. She could live for another day, young enough to learn to change; if the beast caught her next month, that would be too bad. She would have to learn to run, and fast.

The beast’s quarrel was with the man, the one with the large stomach who reeked of sex. He should have been at home in bed, asleep with his wife and under the same roof as his children, but instead an excuse had allowed him to meet up with his younger lover. Whatever he had done to encourage the girl to believe his lies, it had been successful.

Wary of approaching more than one person at a time, the beast held back. It had learned previously that it was important for its prey to be alone and defenceless. If there were too many witnesses to its presence in the city, that would bring about its disaster.

After a short distance, the pair stopped, and the girl turned to face the man. She stood on the tips of her toes and kissed the man firmly on the lips before vanishing into her parent’s house and leaving her lover behind in the darkness. It would be the last time that she would ever see him. The beast was to save her from his manipulation.

The beast’s nose crinkled in disgust. There would be punishment for this man’s sin in this life, and in the next. He stood there, half shrouded in the shadow cast by that house, for a minute or so, seemingly lost in his thoughts. It was nothing for the beast to wait for him to turn and begin lumbering back down the street.

What a shame it was – he was too fat for a long chase. He would make a good meal, though.

The beast emerged from the darkness, gleefully watching the way that the man’s eyes went wide and his face fell as he spotted the great hulking monster in his path. It growled low and snapped at him; he tore off in the opposite direction, his footfalls heavy. There was no reason for the beast to toy with him: he offered it no fun. It sped after him, catching up with him before he was able to reach the corner at the far end of the street.

He was pulled to the ground as though he weighed nothing. The third frenzied feeding of the night followed, and then the beast, wary that it must have been heard and likely spotted, crept away on quiet paws. It retreated to the dull green countryside beyond the city walls, where it felt the forest call to it.

The beast made its way over and settled down in the undergrowth on the outskirts of the forest, where it could look out into the stillness of the night. It enjoyed the contrast between the atmospheres of the city and the countryside. The only sounds in the forest were quiet, sometimes so quiet that it had to strain its ears to hear them. That in itself was significant: the animal had highly acute hearing.

Nocturnal animals hooted and called out into the night, their sounds sinister and uncanny in the darkness. The beast let out a soft howl, joining their chorus. Soon, it would be able to call this place home. Before then, there would be several long months, when it was not in command. It could feel itself growing stronger, but it was not yet strong enough.

One day, it would have full control of the body that it was forced to share with a worthless, hypocritical being. One day, but not yet.

For the present, the only home it had was the one where the human decided to spend their days. For the present, the human was so strong that the beast was sometimes unable to understand where they ended and it began. Two minds, forced to live where there should only ever have been one. A body pushed and forced to twist and change, depending upon which one of them was in control, and the way the controller wanted to look. A painful combination of monster and human that should never have been brought together, in which one of them would always be the captive of the other.

Maybe the human would realise that there was something living inside of them soon, and find out what the creature did. Perhaps they would discover what they became on the full moon and try to fight back, but the beast doubted that they would have the strength. It was confident that it could dominate, should the human ever learn that it existed within them.

There was a more pressing worry than that human, in any case; the beast knew them inside out. Other humans, however, were not the same. If a large enough group of laypeople discovered it, then they would have no issue with killing human and best as one, taking them both out with a single blow to kill the nightmare that stalked the streets. Then there were other dangers, hunters and soldiers, which would be even more dangerous for the beast.

Humans spoke of monsters and demons that could transform into whatever shape they desired, their stories making little or no distinction between the human and the beast that occupied that body, imagining them to be indistinguishable in some instances. Was that what it was? A demon? The beast had no answers to life’s simplest – and hardest – question. Humans had concluded, with their limited knowledge, that monsters were instinctive creatures, wanting nothing more than destruction and death, but this beast wished for far more. It knew loneliness like no human could understand it – it wanted to belong, to be accepted.

If it was a demon, then humans knew nothing of demons.

The beast had learned these stories through the human, their memories and conversations. It had spent a lot of time learning how to delve into the human’s mind without arousing suspicion. They were a well-educated person, a matter which had served the creature well, with a wide knowledge of folklore, religion, and modern thought.

The human had been useful, in this respect. They had taught the animal much about the world around it, including their weaknesses and how it could use those to its advantage. It would almost be a shame when the beast took over and the human was no more – or, rather, it would have been, had the concept of taking over not been such a glorious one. Freedom was the one thing that the animal would give anything for.

Yes, it killed. It destroyed lives, from individuals to whole communities, but it did so in a righteous way. Those it took down and fed upon were sinners, and their punishments in the next life would be far worse than anything it could possibly do to them in this one. With each human it devoured, it could feel its autonomy getting closer. The need to be free was, after all, hardly alien to mankind: it was only natural. It killed so that it could life, no in self-defence, but in self-preservation. It had never considered that there might be another way.

From the stories that humans told, the animal knew that it was a monster. This was what monsters did.

Throwback Thursday: Howler

A throwback to a short story about a couple who decide to holiday in the middle of the woods, and get more than they bargained for.

There was the sound of something running around outside, followed by a low growl. Lexie lifted her head off the pillow to see if she could make anything out on the other side of the curtains, but it was too dark for her to be sure.

“Can you see anything?” she asked Ed.

“No.”

“Me neither.”

Source: Howler

(Flash Fiction) Ghost

An interesting and *creepy* piece of flash fiction.

The Darker Realms

Image credit: Hyena Reality/Shutterstock.com Image credit: Hyena Reality/Shutterstock.com

This hospital has a ghost. Sadly the children here, being the most open, the most psychically acute, tend to see it the most. But on the other hand, they are young, and usually recover from both their bodily ills and the spiritual scarring of seeing the deathly ghost mask hovering above them. For the most part, though it makes them cry, and tell each other stories in its wake, it passes them by, on its grim procession to the elderly, the weak, the dying.

Nurses on late night shifts sometimes speak of seeing it, a floating skull, hovering from room to room as though seeking eternal company. These revelations are whispered things, for to speak more openly would be to risk losing their jobs. But to not speak of it, conversely, would be to hold the secret alone and wonder at one’s sanity. If they must be mad, let…

View original post 191 more words

A Hero’s Welcome by Peter Indianna

Extremely well written and dark horror.

Deadman's Tome

The cobalt dress was taut around Carter Graham’s hips, the nylon thigh-hose stretched smooth and the blonde wig that he made out of Janet’s scalp fit radiantly snug over his short, salt-and-pepper hair. The pumps were far too small so he had to slit the sides of the black leather to make his feet slip into the shoes. Sitting at the dressing table, Carter fumbled about in Janet’s jewelry box, primping and fussing, trying on different pieces to achieve that distinctive look. The make-up strategy was harsh and gaudy, the scarlet lipstick a bit too thick and became smeared from his unskilled attempts to apply it. An synthetic pearl necklace was selected and Carter clasped it around his neck, followed by a pair of pearl studs which he punctured through the lobes of each ear. He stood before the full-length mirror and turned, spun and swayed, mugging at his reflection…

View original post 1,154 more words

The Immortal

I remember how it felt the first time that I took to the skies. One day, I had been normal (if that’s even a thing), working nine-to-five like everyone else, unaware of what existed beyond my immediate vision; the next, two tiny holes in my neck had changed the course of my entire life.

The first time I flew, I jumped from the top of a block of flats and misjudged how easy it would be. Like in the movies, I thought that everything I needed would come to me in the magic of the moment. Thankfully, enough came to me for the world to grant me a chance at a second attempt. I studied up on how birds and bats (especially bats) fly and adopted a working technique. It was wonderful.

Buildings looked so insignificant from above. I thought about the people going round, as tiny as ants, living their ordinary lives, worrying about paying their rent or their taxes. For a while, I pitied them.

Things changed in time. I became used to flying around on my leathery wings, and despite how ridiculous you might think the next statement is, it lost its charm. The world around me changed, developed, and aged, but I stayed the same. I was stuck, motionless, in a void. I wanted to grow old and even die just so I could be like everybody else. Sometimes, I let myself starve, but still nothing happened to me. Food was bitter on my tongue; my nourishment came from the living. It was cruel and I began to hate myself more and more.

I craved companionship, someone who I could relate to, yet I did not wish to condemn anyone else to my fate.

The one who had turned me was arrogant and bitter. He did not care for me, nor did he care for anyone else. I am sure that this is something that comes with the passing of time, the torture of watching generations of mortals be born, grow old and die, all while making the same foolish mistakes that their parents made, and their parents before them. It is easy to see the patterns in history when you have lived through history. That cold emptiness affects all like me in the end. It will affect me, too. One day.

So I always try to remember the awe and the fear of the first time that I took to the skies. It does not remind me of what it is like to be mortal (what I remember is truly long gone), but it does help to keep me grounded. It reminds me that I was new once and I used to enjoy myself. I used to be a small dot in an enormous world, rather than the legend that I have become. I still find pleasure in that memory, and that is all I need to keep me going – though for how much longer, I cannot say.

After all, none of us are designed to live forever.

Hayley’s Chest

Hayley dropped her bag down onto the floor and settled into the armchair, releasing the tension that had built up within her throughout the day with a long sigh. It had been an exhausting day at work and, with the staff problems that they were currently having, it was only going to get worse over the course of the week.

She rummaged through the bag for a cigarette and a lighter. Her hand brushed against something that felt like paper and she frowned at the contact; she had been unaware that there was paper in her bag. She grabbed it and pulled. It was heavier than she had expected it to be and once she removed it from the bag, Hayley noticed that there was a key tied to the note.

In small, blank ink, words paralysed her with fear. Her lips formed them slowly, as though this would help them to sink in.

“You know what to do.”

Hayley reached out to take hold of the key. It was cold under her fingers. The metal held secrets that Hayley had hoped to take to her grave.

At first, she thought about calling Christopher. He had been the one with her that night, the passenger in her now abandoned car. She needed to know why he had chosen to return the key to her now. Was he unable to hide their secret any longer? Had the police found him at last? He was in it as deep as she was after all these years of hiding the evidence.

Hayley was returned to the present by the cold key in her hand. She did not wish to be reminded of what she had done. No, she could not call Chris to ask him why, or if this was the end: it would bring up too many hurtful memories.

The journey up the stairs felt like the longest of her life. Longer than the journey across the room to the bedside of her dying mother. Hayley pushed open the door of the spare bedroom and crossed it to the chest hidden at the back of the wardrobe. It was covered in cobwebs and a thick layer of dust; Hayley pulled it out into the middle of the room, one hand running through the dry dust.

She grimaced and brushed the dust onto her trousers before leaning over the chest to find the lock. There was dust gathered there within the hole too, and when she blew it away small flecks flew up her nose. Hayley sneezed, backing away to escape the dust particles in the air.

Once they disappeared, she moved back over to the chest. With one hand, she slipped the key into the lock and turned it until the mechanism clicked, then swung the lid open with her other hand.

What was kept inside was tattered and grey, with blood stains dried across it. Hayley stretched out her arms and pulled out the old jacket, examining it carefully. The jeans came next. The shirt, boxers and socks had once been white, but they had become dull with time. The fabric was thin and a nasty smell filled the room as soon as the chest was unlocked. It was just like the smell from that night.

Hayley had not meant to hit the pedestrian with her car. She had been drinking that night – though not as much as Chris had – and the guy had walked straight out onto the road in front of her. There had been no way to stop in time.

He had died almost instantly. As if the accident had not been enough, Hayley and Chris had then done something ridiculously stupid that had made the night even worse. They had tossed the body into the boot, taken it back to Chris’ house and buried it in the garden. But Chris, worried that the police would find him, had stripped the body first and taken the clothes back to Hayley’s place, then locked them in the trunk. They had both been implemented in this. If Chris ever thought that he was going to be caught, then he would send the key to Hayley and she would have to bite the bullet as well. That was their pact.

In the five years since the accident, Hayley had been given plenty of opportunities to rid herself of the chest. She could have dumped it. Days had turned into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years, and still they had not been investigated. The burning shame in her gut had kept her away from that chest. Dumping it had not been an option.

She was not ready to be held responsible for her actions. Hayley had built herself a life and a career since that night and she did not wish to give either of those things up.

There was a loud noise from behind her, like the creaking of the stairs, and she spun around with wide, panicked eyes. At first she thought that she had been caught red-handed, holding the clothes of the man she had run over, but then she noticed the words written on the wall.

“You know what to do,” they said. The letters were large, sprawled across the wall and above the door. Hayley stood, staring over at them with a deep sense of worry in the pit of her stomach. Chris could not have come in and painted those words on her wall without her noticing. Below them, a shovel was leaning against the wall – which she was sure had not been there before. It was too clean to have been in the disused room for very long.

This made no sense. Chris would never ask her to dig up the body that they had buried.

Hayley took a step closer to those words, unsure what was happening to her. If this was not Chris, then who had sent her the key? Who had written those words? Who – ?

Her thoughts were interrupted when, without any sign of a paint brush or a hand, fresh words appeared below those already on the wall.

“Unite me with my body. Pay for your crimes at last.”

It was as though someone had reached inside of her and tore out Hayley’s heart. The shock that surged through her quickly turned into guilt, and finally acceptance. For a while, she genuinely thought about digging up the body.

The phone was closer: her mobile was in her pocket. And when she dialled 999 and asked for the police, more words appeared.

“Yes. That’s what you should do.”

The Monster Hidden Within

I think people like to hear stories about monsters. In a way, as strange as it might sound at first, the idea of monsters soothes them. Monsters provide the comforting notion that it is not “us” who cause others harm, but “them”. They divide the humans from the “something else”, and draw a line between what is considered the behaviour of a person and what is not.

We make these monsters ugly or beyond our comprehension. They are designed to be repulsive to us. That is why I believe some of the scariest actions are those performed by people. I’m talking about everyday people who we pass on the street: a man who is walking his dog might look like he had nothing to hide, so to discover that he has a sinister secret would shock us and scare us. How can he act completely normal if he has done something so terrible? But then, that’s the point of monsters, because we’re supposed to know what they’re capable of from the moment we lay eyes on them.

People are frightening because they do not always register on our “monster scale”. That guy who was walking his dog could have picked you out as his victim, and as long as he was able to hide it, nobody else would ever need to know …

Oh, we label certain people monsters, but until we know what they have done we have no idea that they might be monsters. They look like you or I. We cannot discern their monstrous actions because they do not appear like the monsters in the stories we’ve been told.

Donald was this kind of a monster. He liked to go on walks; he even had a dog. I met him on a dating website and I didn’t notice anything that might suggest there was anything sinister about him until he’d ensnared me. Until the trap was set, and until I walked right into it. I can assure you, the fact that I am able to tell you this tale does not offer me much comfort.

Our first date was like any first date should be. It was merry, dignified and just the right amount of silly. We both seemed nervous, although I am skeptical whether Donald actually feels anything: the fact that I could not tell he was acting is a compliment to his skills, and it makes me very concerned for other you.

I know you’re out there somewhere, laughing at his jokes, sipping your wine around a smile that says I think I’ve finally found the one. Trust me, you haven’t. But you won’t keep looking.

We drank and chatted happily. When the bill came, he politely accepted my offer to split the bill with no arguments, which has always been a winner for me. I think it shows a lack of respect if the guy refuses to let you pay for your half, and I’ve never had a second date with anyone who has argued with me about it. So of course, when he agreed, it sealed the deal. I was going to see him again.

You will, too.

The second date was better than the first. It was my choice to select the venue, and we went to a cheaper restaurant – a choice that was largely influenced by the weight of my purse. Afterwards, we went back to his place and I was in awe at the glamour of it. Donald is rich, and it does knock the wind out of you a little to see how much he likes to show it off. You can’t help but feel a little bad – the stuff he has doesn’t matter (or rather, it shouldn’t), and I realised with shame that when I took him back to mine it wasn’t going to live up to the splendour that he was used to. We kissed and I left.

A week later, we met again to go to the cinema. I had an expectation that something was going to happen, but Donald claimed to have a prior engagement that meant we would not be able to go anywhere together. He took me to the apartment complex where I live, complimented the building more than was necessary, and then went home. Whether there really was something he needed to do is debatable.

I’m aware this may be sounding very familiar to you. If so, then I’m sure you’ll also know what’s coming next.

On our fourth date, Donald invited me to his home. He apologised for rushing off at the end of our last date and expressed his wishes that he could have stayed with me for longer. After a conversation that was engineered to sway me to agree, he asked me if I would like to sleep over at his that night. I needed no persuasion: by that point, I felt as though I had been the one waiting for him to be comfortable with the idea of being intimate with me.

That may well have been the case. Oh, he’s passionate, I’m sure you know that, but as I already said, he’s a good actor. He knows just what to do, just what to say, and just how to act to manipulate anyone to do anything. You’ll keep coming back to him and he’ll keep entertaining you until he decides to take the next step. It could be weeks; it could be months. Even if you’re very good, I doubt you’ll get much more than that.

I had about a month and a half. That’s good, I think. At least, it’s good compared to the woman who came before me: she only got a couple of weeks after their fourth date. If you’re wondering, then yes, every date went the same way as mine did. The same way as yours went, I have no doubt.

Then I turned up one day at his place for a romantic evening watching a private movie to discover that the front door was unlocked and he wasn’t anywhere to be seen. There was a note on the kitchen table that told me to make myself comfortable and start the wine without him, so I did. I got through two glasses before he appeared.

He didn’t look like the man I had been dating. Donald had always been a lively, enthusiastic looking man who had taken pride in his appearance: and it had been a good appearance, too. Those wavy golden locks had caught my attention right from the beginning, and his bright blue eyes had practically twinkled in the candlelight.

This time, he looked tired, frustrated, and dark. The colour in his eyes had faded, as though a part of him had died. I passed him a glass of wine and asked him what was wrong.

‘She’s dead,’ he had told me, and I had stopped in my tracks, about to pour myself a third glass. I put the bottle down slowly, moving across the sofa to cuddle him. He was sitting awkwardly, holding the glass out in front of himself as though he had no idea that it was there. I wondered who he was referring to – grandmother, mother, sister, friend – and whispering words of comfort in his ear. It didn’t seem to help.

‘She’s dead,’ he said again, still in the same flat tone.

‘Do you want to be alone?’ I asked him, reaching for my coat. He shook his head.

‘No. I need someone,’ he had answered, and then he had put on the movie.

Not wishing to pry, I had told him that he could tell me anything he wanted to about this woman, and then I had fallen silent, aware that he may not want to talk about it. In all honesty, I had not known what I was expected to say: we had not been dating long enough for me to feel as though I knew what the right thing to say to him was. He told me nothing and we sat in silence for the duration of the movie, barely moving.

At some point afterwards, I fell asleep in his arms. That was my big mistake, and one that I had been warned against – one that I’m warning you against now. When I woke, I was chained to a wall in a room I had never seen before.

I pulled at the chains. At first, I thought it was a game. He had spoken about bondage before and I was more than into it, although we had not yet got around to it. Only then did the letter that I had found hidden away in the silk nightgown after our fourth date come back to me. I had discarded it and abandoned it to the back of my mind, laughing myself silly at the hilarity of it. You will too, although you will regret it later on, just as deeply as I do.

He began to come down to bring me food infrequently, perhaps once a day, perhaps less. I was always hungry when he brought it. The first few times, he did not speak. I begged him to let me out, I pleaded with him to explain this madness, but his face remained blank and his lips sealed in a thin, almost judgemental line. I felt like he believed I belonged there, in that damp cellar.

When he got a little too close and I nearly bit him, then he spoke to me. He pulled back and frowned, then pointed to a set of chains that were hanging on the opposite wall. There was nothing in them but a loose bit of cloth that was stuck in one of the cuffs, and I had done all I could do to avoid looking at them until that moment.

‘She died,’ he said. ‘You’re alive.’

I wanted to add for now, but I refrained. I wondered how many women he had kept down here: she – the woman before me who he was referring to – had not been certain. Again I begged for release, for him to see sense, and when he left I prayed to anyone who would listen to save me from this nightmare. I have no reason to believe that anyone will answer, because nobody answered her when she prayed.

Shouting did not help me. I had not heard anyone shouting when I had been in his house, although I am sure that there must have been someone there trying to get themselves heard. He began to get angry as I became more determined to escape, until as I had been warned he became violent, lashing out at me.

It began with his fists, leaving me with bruises across my face and neck. Then, when he found that his fists no longer satisfied him, he used a plank of wood on the other side of the cellar. Around that time, he must have found you, because he took the silk nightgown I had become accustomed to off me and washed it. My thoughts of communicating with you seemed dashed, until he returned it and hung it on a hook above me, just within my reach. From what I understand of his garbled conversations with himself, the first woman – whoever she had been – had worn it all the time. He likes to keep it close to his prize.

I knew then that there was not much time. My body felt weak and once I died, I knew that you would be the one to take my place. I followed the pattern of the woman before me, and of the woman before her, who had warned her of what she had warned me and I am warning you. I pried the biro from where it was hidden in the wall and wrote this letter for you on a piece of cloth ripped from my clothing. I did not damage the silk nightgown that he had dressed me in; I stuffed this letter into the pocket of the nightgown as deep as I could get it and I now leave it for you to find.

I know that you won’t listen to me, which is a shame. Of course, I understand why. I didn’t listen when I was told, and I learnt the hard way. You’ll be the same. I only hope that one day, somebody will be strong enough to break free of his spell and do the right thing. That, whoever they are, they’ll run as fast as they can to the nearest police station and tell the first officer they can find about what this man does. All of the information they’ll need to prove what he’s done will be available to them in the form of a letter, just like this one. Donald will finally be stopped.

So I leave this warning for you, just as the woman before me left one. And I leave you the biro too, so that when you are in my position, and my body has surrendered, you too will warn the next woman of this inhuman monster.

The Creature in the Garden

It’s cold. The rain is hammering on the window and the sound is almost deafening. I climb out of my bed and go over to the window, slowly reaching over to draw back the curtain. The rain crashes down on the glass as my hand moves closer and closer to the fabric. I pull it back and –

Nothing. There’s nothing. Just the garden and, beyond that, the garden fence.

I sigh in relief and lower my arm, allowing the curtain to fall back into place before returning to my bed. Within a few seconds of my eyes closing, the rain starts to come down heavier than before, smashing against the window as though it’s about to break through the glass. And then –

Tap tap tap

A sound on the window, just like every other night. I pull the bedding higher, covering my face as I try to ignore the noise. I breathe slowly, anticipating the tapping again.

Tap tap tap

And there it is. It isn’t going to stop until I react and I know it. I push the covers away and climb out of my bed, then move over to the window to have a look at the culprit. The curtain feels heavier than last time and it takes more effort for me to move it, holding the fabric back with both hands as I stare out of the window into the darkness.

It’s there, just like it always is. Every night. Only – it’s closer this time. I stare at it and two bright yellow eyes stare back.

It sits cross-legged on the grass outside of my window. That’s all it does, but then the fact that it never does anything more than that only makes it creepier. The rain doesn’t seem to disturb it. It just stares and stares – it never blinks. I don’t think it needs to. I don’t know what it is and I don’t wish to find out, but I do now that it hasn’t always been there. There was a time when it wasn’t there. There was a time when nothing tapped on the window and I slept peacefully every night.

Then, one night that had at first been like any other, the tapping had started.

Every night since, it’s been sat there. I never hear it moving towards the window to knock on the glass or moving away from the house. By the time I climb out of my bed and pull back the curtain to look outside, it’s always sat down on the grass. I fear seeing it up close. I fear seeing anything more than that dark figure and the two unblinking eyes of a monster.

I wonder if it will leave me alone tonight. Sometimes, it only taps on the window a few times. Sometimes, I find that after I’ve looked out of the window, it stops knocking (as though seeing me is what satisfies me, as crazy as I am to look at it). Sometimes, it taps all night long.

I let the curtain fall back down and return to my bed. It takes a long time for me to drift off to sleep; though the thing does not tap again, I lie there waiting for it to do so, hesitant and afraid. When I do eventually fall to sleep, I dream of yellow eyes staring at me from the other side of the room.

*

It only taps a few times the following night. The night after that, it only taps once, which is rare. I look out of the curtain each night and notice with gladness that it has moved no closer to the window. I think about inviting someone to sleep over at my house for a while and wonder if that will make any difference. My parents would love to come visit me and it would be a comfort to know that there’s someone else in the house. Someone else who would hear those taps on my bedroom window.

I wonder what they would think of me if I mentioned it and they didn’t hear or see anything. I wonder what might happen if they were there, in the room with me, and I was the only one to hear the taps; if I was the only one who could see the thing sitting in my garden. I’ve got no idea whether it’s real or in my mind any more.

The more I think about it, the more certain I am that it can’t be real. I decide to take an approach that won’t publicise my insanity and set up a camera outside of my bedroom window to record the thing at night. If I get footage of it, I’ll have evidence of this thing. It’s a better approach than simply taking a picture of it from inside the house: the flash might startle it or cause it to move closer to the window, and this way I would be able to see where it came from and where it went when it left.

That night, I climb into my bed and wait. Sure enough, it returns.

Tap tap tap

I close my eyes and draw in a sharp breath. It’s always hard to encourage myself to get out of the bed and make my way over to the window.

Tap tap tap

I shiver at the sound, certain that it’s a little louder this time, a little more insistent. I hear the bed springs creak as I climb off the mattress, wincing at the noise. My feet touch the carpet and my toes curl as I hear the thing tapping on the window for a third time.

Tap tap tap

I stand and make my way over to the window. The curtain feels heavy again tonight as I push it aside, leaning towards the glass to see the figure in the garden. It’s there staring at me, those eyes gleaming in the darkness. It’s not raining but the wind is rough, blowing through the bushes in the garden; the weather doesn’t seem to affect the black shape sitting on the grass. It’s immobile, like a statue, silent and unblinking. I retreat to the bed.

Tap tap tap

It’s going to be a bad night. I bury my head under the covers and press my face into the pillow, trying to block out the noise of that thing tapping on the window.

Tap tap tap

It goes on for some time. In the early hours of the morning, before it starts to get light outside, the tapping ceases and I manage to get a bit of sleep. When I wake, I feel physically drained and spend most of the day only half awake. It’s not until the evening that I remember the camera outside.

*

It takes me a few more days to work up the courage I need to watch what that camera has recorded. I’ve got four nights worth of footage before I decided it’s time to watch it. Somehow, seeing what that thing does outside of my window every night is far more frightening than what I’ve become used to – going over to the window and staring at it for a few seconds through the curtains. On the previous night, it had looked a little closer to the house, which had been enough to persuade me to watch the footage.

I decide to do it in the middle of the day, aware that if I watch the footage when it’s getting dark I’ll probably freak myself out. I sit down in the living room, the room furthest from my bedroom, and prepare myself a hot drink before going anywhere near what I’ve recorded. The footage can be played on my laptop, but I do everything I can to distract myself from pressing the play button. I’m very aware that what I’m about to watch might make everything I experience at night that much worse. I’m also aware that it might expose everything I’ve been through for the past month or so as an elaborate hoax.

As much as I pray for the latter (it would be a great relief to discover that this is someone’s idea of a joke), I don’t believe it can be a hoax. The idea that someone places a plastic figure in my garden and taps on my window every night seems preposterous. It’s gone on for too long for this to be fake.

I sit myself down with the laptop on my knee, then click play, holding my breath. It’s a while before I see anything significant and I skip through the beginning of the footage until the screen flickers and goes black. I slow down the speed of the footage when this happens, frowning at the computer screen for about half a minute before the screen flickers back to life, showing my front garden again.

Only now there’s a black figure sitting cross-legged on the grass outside of my window. It’s facing the house, two large yellow eyes staring at the window below the camera. I watch it with baited breath, waiting for it to move. The time in the corner of the screen tells me that I had been climbing into bed at this time; for a while nothing happens, the stillness of the creature unnerving as I wait for something to occur.

It’s going to move soon and tap on the window, I know it. Three quiet taps and then it’ll rush away from the house to sit down before I get to the window. I wonder with some fear whether anything about it will change when I pull the curtain back, and my heart beats faster as I wait for the moment of change.

Slowly, to my disbelief, it raises one arm – as black and mysterious as the rest of the creature – and points it towards the window. I tilt my head to one side, bewildered. The window is too far away for it to possibly reach it, but it stretches out its arm anyway as though the window is going to move closer to it.

I expect it to stand and move over to the window when it fails to reach the glass. It doesn’t. It stays cross-legged on the floor, only its arm moving.

And its arm does move. In fact, it grows.

I watch with disbelief as the arm gets longer, stretching impossibly thin and long until the hand reaches the window. I blink, staring dumbly at the screen. The thing knocks three times and in my head I can hear the tap tap tap on my bedroom window. Then the arm retracts and the creature is still once more.

No other part of the creature moved, only that awful arm which grew too long to tap on the window. It happens twice more, each successive time turning my stomach more than the last. The unnatural shape of that arm, the way it seems to grow out of the creature as the rest of it remains motionless, is deeply chilling. Watching it feels wrong simply because I know that arms can’t do that.

After the third set of taps, I sit back in my seat a little, hoping that it isn’t going to respond to the sight of me looking at it from the window. I can’t see myself on the screen but I know I must be at the window by now, staring at that thing. It doesn’t move or respond. I breathe a sigh of relief.

I know it’s going to start tapping again once I’ve gone. I know that arm is going to reach out again and tap the window – and that it will do this all night long. What I don’t expect is for something to become visible beneath those yellow eyes: a set of pointed white teeth, appearing out of the black shape of the creature to create a sinister smile. But that’s exactly what happens.

I slam the laptop lid and run out of the room.

*

I never work up the courage to watch the rest of the footage; I delete it as soon as I’m willing to go near the laptop again. Those sharp white teeth and that awful grin keep flashing through my mind. I wish that I could do something to make those images go away, but I can’t. For a while, I wish I had shown the footage to someone before I had deleted it, but later realised that if they had seen nothing I would’ve had to face up to the fact that I’m losing my mind. I don’t want to discover this is all in my head.

I decide to sleep in the living room that night. I bring my blankets and pillow from the bedroom before it gets dark and settle down on the sofa, flicking through channels on the television long into the night. There’s nothing on but I watch it just to give myself something to do. Sleep now seems impossible.

There’s a window by my feet but it only looks out onto a path and fence, which thankfully means there isn’t enough room for the thing to sit there and stare at me. Nevertheless, I hear a familiar noise in the middle of the night.

Tap tap tap

It’s coming from the other end of the house and it’s very faint, but I know I’m not imagining it. I change the channel to a 24-hour news channel and try to ignore the taps on the bedroom window.

Tap tap tap

I turn up the volume a little in an attempt to drown out the sound. For a few minutes I hear nothing more, and then –

TAP TAP TAP

The sound is much louder this time, as though it’s trying to be heard over the television. I begin to shake, my whole body moving involuntarily, all of my control gone. It knows I’m not in the bedroom – and how it could possibly know that doesn’t matter. There are tears in the corners of my eyes as I wait for whatever is going to come next. I have no idea what to expect.

BANG!

I almost fall off the sofa in shock at the noise coming from the bedroom. I’m sure the house shakes a little.

BANG! BANG!

I squeeze the remote tightly in my hand, hoping this will provide me with some stability. I’ve managed to stop most of my body from shaking but I can’t control my right arm as I point the remote unsteadily at the television and turn the volume all the way up. The noise coming from the television is extraordinary and I push my head into the pillow in an attempt to drown it out.

Perhaps the television will block out the banging on my bedroom window.

Perhaps this thing will leave me alone.

Perhaps if I don’t respond, it will go away.

BANG! BANG!

I groan into the pillow. It isn’t going to leave me alone at all. It isn’t going to go away. In fact, it only seems to be trying harder.

The banging continues for about half an hour until I become bored. The volume of the television has all but burst my eardrums and I turn it off, a loud ringing sound echoing around in my ears. I’m tired and I only want to sleep, but the noise from my bedroom won’t stop. There’s only one thing for it.

I drag the covers and the pillow back to my room and throw them on the bed before turning to the window. My throat feels tight; I can barely breathe. The curtain hangs down heavily, the last barrier between myself and the terrifying creature in my garden. I move towards it, raising my hand to push the curtain aside, and with my heart thundering in my chest I grab hold of the material, moving it slowly out of my way.

It takes all of my remaining strength not to scream at what I see. The thing outside of my bedroom window isn’t sitting cross-legged on the grass like it normally does – it’s stood right outside of the window, looking in. It’s smiling, just like it did in the footage I recorded.

That dark head turns towards me when I pull back the curtain. Those two yellow eyes meet my own and the grin widens a little at the sight of me. It reaches up with one arm – this time, in proportion to the rest of it – and stretches out a finger to touch the glass.

Tap tap tap

I wonder, in a moment of insanity, whether it wants me to tap back. I almost do – before I realise that whatever it wants me to do can’t be good for me. We stand there staring at one another for a few moments before I allow the curtain to swing shut and obscure the creature from view.

It doesn’t tap again. I don’t get any sleep.

*

The following morning, I pack my bags and leave. I should’ve left when I first saw that thing sitting outside of my bedroom window, but at that time I was determined not to let it drive me out of my home. Seeing it up close changed my mind very quickly.

I’m staying with my parents for a while. Just until the nightmares become manageable – I don’t ever expect them to go away. I’m not sure where I’ll go after that, but it won’t be anywhere near my old house. I’ve not been disturbed by anything in the night since I left that place.

I just hope that whoever lives there next doesn’t hear taps in the night.