By Mark Pease
Tommy awoke, startled and drenched in his own humid sweat, just as he had awakened many, many nights before. His sheets clung to his small frame in a very uncomfortable fashion and his eyes darted about his room. His frightening dream remained fresh in his mind, a dream so vivid it had seemed reality. Tommy had dreamed that he was tied to an enormous wooden chair, finely engraved and Mosaic in design. His small, thin arms were bound tightly to each armrest, not quite long enough to reach either side, but rope pulled them so firmly; he thought they would be wrenched from their sockets. The small broken fibers of the rope pricked his wrists and scratched him with any movement.
A fine red carpet flooded the room, which appeared empty except for him and the chair he was fastened to. The boy was only allowed a moment to look upon the room before the chair began to move with life around him. The armrests took the shape of long arms, with two enormous taloned hands unfolding before him. The red carpet, which seemed far below him, licked to the heavens with a brazen fire.
His bonds had disappeared, and he found himself sitting upon the leg of some enormous creature. Unafraid, the boy looked up over his shoulder. His eyes widened as he looked upon the savagely evil grin of a great demon. "Leave me alone!" The boy cried out, a fervent fear in his voice. A great echo of laughter filled what was a fiery cavernous pit, and the demon looked down upon the boy with genuine amusement. "Your Supreme Being and I have struck an agreement boy", the demon's fierce voice cracked like thunder, "You are mine… you will never reach judgment day for you have already been placed in my hands. I shall relish the unique purity of your DAMNED soul for eternity." The demon broke into a hellish laughter again and a lone tear dropped down the boy's face.
"Let me out of here", the boy cried as he rose to his feet and ran, "I want my mommy!"
This last statement sent the demon into a heightened fury of horrible laughing, causing Tommy to lose balance and go sprawling into the fire below. This had been when he awoke.
Tommy stared petrified around his dark room, attempting to relinquish the memory from his mind. The moon shone and cast shadows off the various items of furniture and belongings scattered about. The shadows were more than just blocked light, at least Tommy know that, and his eyes widened at the knowledge that the shadows would soon spring to life.
His teeth had begun to rattle into a rhythm that sped as fast as his heartbeat and he sat up quickly, pulling his sticky covers up to his face. The distant creaks of the house settling and the unnerving drip of the water faucet in the neighboring room pounded in his mind. His blonde hair had begun to matte against his wet forehead in clumps and a lone droplet of sweat tickled down his cheek.
The boy's smooth face had remained fastened for what seemed an eternity, staring into his frozen, motionless room. He felt he was no longer in his room at all, his personal items and furniture had twisted, grown, and polymorphed in such a way it seemed he was on an entirely different plane of existence. Not quite just night on his plane and not quite dreaming, he was very unsure of just where he was. Sitting here alone was far worse that a dream, even the one he just had, because he knew you could never truly be injured in a dream. He also knew that his own imaginations had created this place; a place that frightened him so much that his stomach twisted and churned beneath his chest, making his entire body shaky in a quickened, convulsive manner. Could his imagination be that creative? It would have to be because adults had never spoke of this place… at all. Perhaps adults all lost their imaginations with time, he pondered momentarily.
Tommy slowly slipped his knees up to meet his chin, hoping to hide himself in an inconspicuous way, from the shadows that had begun to sway. Rising and falling against his floor and walls, they moved with enchanted life… and he knew they were all around him.
A slow, long whistle waned as the wind passed his window to the right, and his head turned briskly to the vicinity of its' conception. The boy's eyes turned red with worry, dark rings appearing under each one.
Tommy gazed outside his window and noticed the falling of great flakes, slowly plummeting past his window. A great, black tree stretched its branches out to receive the snow, like many arms gathering natures feast. The tree that had stood for many years next to his window, and could sometimes block out the moonlight during the summer, now freely allowed the shards and illuminations to enter unhindered.
The room had suddenly seemed to chill, his wet blanket freezing him with any sudden movement. The shadows of his room danced to an unheard song, leaping and swaying. His mind worked frantically to persuade his consciousness into not believing the spectacle around him, but failed.
Tommy closed his eyes and threw his covers over his head, a dry audible gulp traversing down his throat. He had wanted to scream, but he knew he couldn't wake his mom for the fifth night in a row, nor did he think he could scream if he wanted to. Tommy bit hard on his tongue in an effort to stop his chattering teeth and shaking body, but his nerves had seemed nearly numb. A thin drop of blood mixed quickly with the sweat on his chin and streamed down his neck. He wasn't sure if he was shaking so uncontrollably because of the cold or fear, he only knew he would soon have to face his crazed imaginings.
The creaking of his bedroom door sent reinforced chills up his spine as he slowly dragged his covers down past his eyes. A dim, yellow haze floated into his room from the small hallway light. Had his dad come home tonight, he wondered? No, his dad hadn't been home in a long time, had he? Mom had always said he was going to end up shot dead, and it would serve him right. Yes, perhaps it was mom, who had worried about him and come to see if he was ok. No. She wouldn't be concerned. She was probably "entertaining a guest", and would "give him something to cry about" if alerted by his insecurities. No, he was definitely not going to be saved. It had occurred to him that the shadows had no longer flickered about. Yet there was a new shadow. A shadow Tommy was familiar with. He could tell by the curly tufts of hair and the small stature of this shadow that it was his sister; standing silent. A rush of joy and warmth rushed through his body at the thought of familiar companion in his horrible imagination, and he just stared with hope in his eyes for a few moments. His sister didn't particularly like him, but she could possibly bring him back to his preferred reality. His sisters' silhouette still had not spoken and his stomach began to whip and churn anew.
"What are you doing here?" Tommy had barely managed to stammer. His sister was seven years old, a year older than he was, and had, for the moment, stopped his wild self-deceptions. Tommy waited for his sister to answer, impatiently staring at her.
A few moments passed, before he could make out a wicked smile parting his blackened sister's face, a smile that had turned his own face white with fear. The sharpened teeth revealed cruel conception and obvious knowledge of something he could not, at the moment, grasp. A soft chiming, stream of laughter had begun to rise, and Tommy froze in his bed, paralyzed by the creature his mind had created.
His sister had suddenly moved quickly out the way she had came, leaving the door swinging back and forth on a breeze he could not feel. His sister had not moved as normal humans move, but glided hastily out, as a passing car blurs with velocity. "Daddy's coming home!" These were the last words he heard her speak as she ran down the hall, and they echoed in his room as if it were empty.
His entire body seemed to be sweating again, but he felt like he was freezing to death. An ice-cold breeze had broken through his thick blanket and slowly caressed his near nude form. Had his shaking brought the shadows back to life, he wondered, because they had once again danced frightfully before him.
Tommy's mind had become a dizzy veil of frantic ideas, and he felt that he was going to faint. His heart raced so quickly it seemed like a hum, and he knew he couldn't take much more. What had she meant, "Daddy's coming home?" Daddy was gone, he thought to himself. "He's not coming home", he had tried to say, but his dried throat and mouth felt like aged parchment as the words died on his lips.
Just as he thought this, a light tap and scratching noise floated into the room from the window. Tommie's' eyes grew wide and his fists clenched at his sheets, as he swiftly turned his head toward the window. "How've you been son?" A raspy, haunted voice spoke coarsely. A small clump of frozen hair appeared at the bottom of his window, blowing slowly with the wind and streaked with the white ice and snow. Heavy flakes passed by in the darkness and the head began to rise.
Tommy had recognized that is was indeed his father's voice, however weak and coarse. His father had always commanded a rather stern, dominate voice. Tommy knew it couldn't be his father, he knew it would be another warped likeness, just as his sister had been. But would this one let him live?
His sheets seemed to be totally frozen to him now and he knew he wouldn't be able to budge. The clumps of hair had risen and soon revealed a brown, dirty forehead, flecked with loose pieces of skin. Cavernous, black eyes soon peered into the room, scanning and finding their destination. His father's nose hung in a loose flap of flesh, his warm wisps of breath forming a circle of fog in the window. "I've come to pick you up, boy" he spoke again in a strained voice, his bony hand and fingers pressing against the glass.
Tommy's stomach was quaking now, his heart hammered at his chest and tears began to stream down his helpless face. "I'm coming to take your life, Tommy".
A loud crash arose in the room as his father's hand smashed through the window and three of his fingers fell on his hard wood floor. Shattered glass skipped about his room and Tommy felt like his heart had burst. He didn't know for sure, but he knew it had stopped. He slowly let the covers of his bed unroll around his ankles as all of his pain seemed to have ceased. His broken father was no longer at the window and a sense of peace like he had never known overwhelmed him. The shadows no longer taunted him, and he slowly laid back into his bed. The fears he had experienced were over, but so was his life, as the glimmer in his eyes dimmed, faded, and were gone.
All was silent in Tommy's room for several hours until the front door squealed open and then closed. Hard cloven feet paced across the hard wood floor and stopped at the entrance to Tommy's room. A misshapen figure standing on goat's legs stood staring at the innocent, lifeless boy. The torso of the beast was partially human, but long hair covered most of the body. Four breasts hung drooping from its chest to stomach, while its face gazed in horror. Long pointed ears and longer sharpened horns protruded from its head, and its saddened face was filled with all the beauty of humanity.
The beast crossed the room to Tommy's side and lifted the boy into her arms. She stood for long moments slowly swaying and cradling him in her arms. The creature's eyes were glazed with emotion and soon set the boy down. She stared at him again, for a moment, then turned and walked out. "Now you will be with us", she spoke with a weary voice and disappeared out the front door.
Tommy's body laid untouched for several days until Mike, the utility man, found him in the room. Most of the snow had melted, and he had noticed that one of the windows had been broken. The house had been abandoned for some time and he didn't know where the boy could have come from. Tommy was found lying on the floor partially frozen to what may have been his favorite blanket. Mike called the police and they had figured that the child broke into the place and froze to death. A search for any the child's relations is still pending.