Martin couldn't sleep. He felt like he had been lying in his bed for hours even though the clock told him it had been only one at most. The deafening silence of the house amplified the sounds of his rustling about and the wind blew through the leaves on the tree in the backyard. Water dripped from the faucet in the bathroom. The drip pounded like a hammer and no matter how hard Martin tried, he couldn't shut the noise out. There was no other noise to focus on, just the quiet stillness of his room and the drip drip from the sink. This wasn't the first night this week that he couldn't sleep, even his teacher Mrs. Dramond had commented on how tired he looked yesterday. He rolled over in a fluster to look at the clock again. It read 12:43 A.M. Martin let out an exasperated sigh and smacked his pillow with his fist. All he wanted was some rest, maybe a glass of water would help.
He threw the sheets off of him and put his feet on the ground. He hugged his arms to his bare chest and his thin legs shivered in the night's cold. He tread on his tip toes to avoid touching the chilly hardwood floor in the hallway as much as possible. The sink continued to drip drip and it only got louder as he got closer. He flicked the light on in the bathroom and squinted from the sudden brightness and immediately the clamor from the dripping stopped. When his vision cleared up he shut the door part way and turned the handle on the faucet, grabbed the blue plastic cup by the sink and filled it.
Much better... He thought as he gulped it down. He set the cup back down and wiped his mouth on the towel and turned the light back off. As he put his hand on the doorknob waiting for his eyes to adjust, a brief burst of movement caught his ears moving down the hallway. Martin froze, his breath catching in his throat.
Martin had never been a fan of the dark and even less of a fan since his brother had died. He wanted to turn the light back on but maybe whatever it was that had moved didn't know he was in the bathroom. If that was the case then he didn't want to draw any attention to himself.
It sounded like cannon fire to him. He strained to listen with his ear against the door but between the water drips and the pounding of his own heart he could barely hear his own thoughts let alone any noise from beyond the door. He gripped the handle and opened it ever so slowly and peaked his head out of the door looking left and the right.
He opened the door the rest of the way and cautiously made his way out, still on his tip toes while keeping his hand against the wall for balance since his eyes still hadn't quite adjusted yet. He tried to force his eyes to see better but it wasn't helping much. He kept jerking his head from one side of the hall down the other trying to find that invisible thing in the darkness.
He made his way step by cautious step, still having his “don't draw any attention” tactic on his mind. One foot after the other... Slowly. But the screech that came from the soft, fuzzy something that Martin stepped on completely ruined that plan. Martin felt his heart drop and pressed against the wall desperately trying to keep his footing. The thing darted away and stared back at him with glowing green eyes.
“Sheldon... Geez...” He gasped out, his heart still racing.
He made it to his room and snuggled back up under his still warm sheets and looked at the clock one last time. 12:51 A.M. He finally calmed himself down after realizing the thing he saw while he was in the bathroom was just the cat. The pounding of the water drops had stopped and he could finally go to sleep. He closed his eyes and drifted off, blissfully unaware of the gnarled, pale fingers slithering up like ghostly snakes from under the bed that stretched and stretched until they found his cheek and gently stroked it before retreating back under the bed.
Martin could barely keep his eyes open in class the next day. Mrs. Dramond kept talking but all he could hear was a faint incoherent buzzing sound coming from out of her lips. She was walking around passing back the spelling tests they had taken the day before. Martin was always good at spelling, even placing second place out of all the other third graders in school last year. Mrs. Dramond set the test down on his desk and paused for a moment with a frown upon her face before continuing down the aisle. He had only gotten a 71%.
His grades had been slipping the whole fourth grade year. His younger brother Daniel had died only three months ago after falling into the wash during the rains which prompted his mom and dad to move out of the Santa Clarita valley to Santa Ana. Martin stopped being able to sleep soon after.
He had been right beside Daniel before he fell. The wash ran right behind their backyard and the two of them had been outside splashing in the puddles. The rain had eroded a section of earth under the chain link fence creating a sizable gap. The boys had been running and Martin chased Daniel up to the fence. As he collided with the fence, his foot slipped into the gap and fell right through. Martin watched unable to do anything as his brother fell into the rushing water below. His raincoat had gotten stuck on the fence and Martin had brought it inside to his mother in tears but completely speechless. His mother and father had been getting into arguments more and more lately ever since they had moved. When Martin wasn't kept awake by the sounds that seemed to echo so loudly he was kept awake by the shouting and accusations of his parents.
He got home from school that day and did his homework while his mom talked on the phone before watching some television. His father didn't say a word when he got home from work other than asking what was for dinner. Dinner that night was a meat loaf Hamburger Helper meal which was eaten quickly and silently through the tension.
He brushed his teeth after dinner and used the toilet and Mom tucked him in without even a kiss goodnight, flicked off the switch and shut his door. The arguing started almost immediately afterward.
It was the same as it always was. She accused him of being too lazy and wanting to watch the game when he should have been outside playing with the kids, he accused her of letting them play outside in the first place and in the end they both wondered why Martin had to chase him to the fence. Why Martin had wanted to do something as silly as playing in the puddles and why he couldn't have acted more responsibly like he usually was?
He wished he could tell them how he tried to help Daniel and how it was an accident and how even though they blamed him and he felt like he wasn't loved, he still loved them. How even though he thought they wanted him dead sometimes, he was terrified at the thought of losing them, even if it was fifty years from now. But most of all he wished he could tell Daniel how much he missed him.
Martin heard every word all the way from up the stairs just like every other night. And just like every other night, when the shouting had stopped he turned over to cry himself to sleep.
The crash woke Martin up and he sat bolt upright clutching his truck comforter. The sound had come from his parents room, perhaps a plate from the china set from Martin's grandmother. His mother kept them on display in her armoire. Another crash followed soon after making him jump and pull the sheets tighter. Martin crept out of bed and put his ear to the door. It was cold, but there was no more noise.
Everything in his body was telling him not to open the door but he had to know if his parents were OK. He pulled the door open and immediately began shivering. The sickly, unnatural cold permeated the air and dug into his skin like a knife. His feet pat patted along the floor as he headed timidly to his parents room.
“Mom?” he whispered.
The door was cracked. Not quite enough to see into though. Martin shivered some more and eased against the door. It creaked and squeaked as he pushed on it. Martin could only make out shadows in the room, the only light coming from the moon through the window.
Another plate crashed to floor just the to left of his dad's side of the bed. Martin gasped and stepped back towards the door at the sight of the figure standing beside his father. The moon illuminated the cold, naked pale skin of the creature hunched over his parent's bed. The skin glistened like mucous and its spine and ribs jutted out from the emaciated chest. Shiny glints of onyx for eyes peered intently at his father's motionless body. The moonlight reflected off of his numerous pointed teeth and his jaw opened unnaturally wide. The arms and legs were horribly elongated and distorted in proportion to the frail slender body.
Martin was rooted to the spot, hoping and praying to whatever god there was that the thing hadn't seen him. As if sensing his thoughts, the thing reached its spider leg arm to the armoire upon which sat the china set and grabbed another plate in its spindly fingers and casually dropped it to the floor sending it shattering, before twisting its head around and staring directly into Martin's eyes. Even at such a young age, Martin knew this had been the plan all along. The thing opened its mandibled jaws, the bones crunched and cracked as its bottom jaw sank to the floor. A dry, creaking shriek pierced the frigid air and silent night and Martin snapped out of his paralysis. He bolted back down the hallway and stopped unsure of which way to go.
His room and shut the door? No, of course not.
The monster crashed through his parents door and lodged its spiny fingers into the drywall and climbed its way onto the ceiling. It let out another shriek, twisting its head around and distending its jaw almost to the floor ready to devour Martin whole. The creature dug its taloned toes into the ceiling and bolted towards Martin, ripping chunks of drywall from the ceiling as it tore down the ceiling. Martin screamed and ran to the stairs. The thing shrieked again as it scuttled across the wall like a crab and leaped to the wall in front of staircase, blocking Martin's path.
Martin screeched to a halt and and landed on his chest as the rug skidded out from underneath him. He was winded but he didn't waste any time picking himself up and running back the other way. He could hear it closing in on him but he didn't dare look behind him. He dodged the drywall debris in the hallway as he ran back to the only place in his little mind he felt like he would be safe even though he had dismissed the idea only moments before.
He slammed his bedroom door behind him and moved his toy box in front of the door. He knew in his mind it wouldn't stop the creature but what else was he going to do? The crunching sounds of drywall being torn from the walls and crashing to the ground had stopped but Martin could sense it was close, just outside of his door waiting...
The only way out was through the window but without a roof below him it was nearly twenty feet to the ground. He would surely break his legs if not his neck. Martin's bottom lip trembled as he struggled to hold back tears. Tears of panic, tears of terror, tears in discovering that monsters and demons do exist but mostly tears of knowing that his short life was already coming to an end so quickly and by a thing so gruesome. He would never get to be an astronaut or a race car driver. He was instead going to be ripped apart and gnashed in between rows of razor sharp teeth.
Almost resigning to his fate, he climbed into his bed and pulled his truck covered comforter over his head. He had seen it before in movies and always thought it was a stupid idea and yet here he was. A warm tear finally hit the sheets below him. He braced for the nightmarish thing to shatter its way through the door and devour him but it didn't happen. He waited and waited but it didn't come. Was it toying with him? Or maybe it lost interest? Perhaps it was all a terrible dream? He was about to take his head out from underneath the covers until the scratching started on the side of his bed.
Ten yellowed nails scratched and scraped, inching their way closer and closer to the lump hiding beneath the covers. They wrapped around Martin's head and he could feel the cold dampness even through his thick comforter. He screamed and jumped out of bed and landed in the back corner of his room. He pulled his knees up to his chest, hugging them tight and put his head in between them, only his eyes peeked through. He knew it would only be a few more seconds as the long fingers that crept over his bed would reveal the hideous creature they belonged to.
The distorted oblong face made its way over the edge of the bed almost deliberately slowly, as if it was savoring the agonizing terror spilling out from Martin. The scent of fear causing the creature to drip saliva down its tongue, in between rows of teeth and leaving a trail on Martin's bed. It pulled one leg and then the other onto the bed and perched on the edge of the bed. Its knobbly knees extended past his head and connected to brittle looking legs with three clawed toes on each foot. Its hands gripped the bed and its fingers stretched down to the floor and they tap tapped as it cocked its misshapen head to one side admiring the horror that tore through the pit of Martin's stomach.
Without warning it sprang at Martin and pinned him to the ground. He yelped in pain as dagger like nails dug into his shoulder. Its jaws widened into a sick grin of delight at the capture of its prey. The stink of rotting decomposed souls saturated Martin's nostrils and he fought to keep from vomiting as he struggled against the considerable strength of such an emaciated looking creature.
Join the rest of them...
Its thoughts lacerated Martin's skull as it yanked Martin out from underneath him, tearing his pajamas to ribbons as it greedily stuffed Martin's body into its gaping maw of a mouth.
Martin opened his eyes. The bed was drenched in sweat but the room was still warm. He bolted upright, gasping and panting for breath before opening his mouth to scream for his dad. Martin didn't wait before calling out again loud enough to have been heard a couple houses down. It took a moment but he breathed a sigh of relief as his father's footsteps rapidly clunked down the hallway and the knob rattled in his hand.
“What is it Martin?” He said as he burst through the door, wide eyed and panicked at hearing his son's call. Reassurance flowed through his body as his father's gruff face and wide frame entered the room and the lights were flicked on.
“It's OK son, I'm here! What is it?”
Martin jumped into his father's arms and almost immediately recoiled back. His frigid hands chilled Martin to the bone but it didn't even compare to the cold terror of realization that it wasn't all a dream.
“It's OK son...”
His father stopped to push the side of his face back up as it drooped towards the ground like dough. It mushed in between his fingers as he pushed it up. He tried to use his other hand but the skin just oozed through the fingers. As he pulled his hands away, chunks of doughy flesh tore apart. The stringy muscles and tendons of his mouth left a gaping red hole where his cheek was. His mouth became a wide smile as his teeth showed through the side of his face. He stretched out an arm towards his petrified son before his eyes rolled back and he collapsed onto the bed.
Martin leaped up, narrowly avoiding his father's corpse and he ran for the door, down the hall. He sprinted to the staircase being reminded of events far too fresh in his mind. He took the stairs two at a time and landed in the entryway realizing as soon as he got there that something was far more wrong than he originally thought.
The den to his left was flooded like some sort of lake that went on and on far beyond what the room normally would. The couch floated on the black water with his mother's lifeless, bloated body resting on top, a bottle of liquor still clutched in her hand.
There was no front door to escape to. Only his small island at the base of the stairs. His heart raced as he tried to grasp what was happening around him. Before he had a chance, a pale arm flopped at the top of the staris as his father pulled his rapidly decomposing body to the steps. With one last effort he flung himself over the top step and landed with a disgusting mushing sound at the top of the landing into a sick broken heap. Black water leaked out of his mouth and Martin turned away in tears to face the black lake in front of him only to find a new horror awaiting him.
A small, shivering body stood before him on the entryway. Small hands rubbed his cold, blue tinged arms in a futile effort to keep warm. Martin knew immediately it was Daniel standing before him, nearly a foot shorter than he.
Martin couldn't contain himself anymore and he let his mouth drop as he cried shamelessly, reeling backwards as far as the wall would let him. Daniel kept his head down and took a step forward.
“Why are you running away from me Martin?”
The voice was small, frail and it gurgled as he spoke.
Puddles had formed at his feet and he shuffled just a bit closer to Martin, his toes curling. Martin pressed his hands against the wall and slid down to the floor. He wasn't sure how he knew but he knew he was dead. He was dead and this was his new life, together with his family at last. Nowhere to go but to the cold dark waters that had consumed Daniel and his parents in this hellish dimension. Death from some monstrous creature had brought him here and here he was.
Water dripped off Daniel's as he lifted his head to meet Martin's mortified eyes.
“We're together now brother...”
© Copyright 2016 Cody Burkhart. All rights reserved.