***WARNING!*** The following story got me banned from using Facebook Advertising. Proceed of your own free will and choice.
Sarah ran out into the street and sat on the sunbaked pavement, wrapping her little arms around her knees as she cried. Her tiny body trembled as autumn leaves fell from the trees, swirling around her in a breeze that carried the smell of an approaching storm. She’d picked the safest place she could see in her frantic mind, a place that wasn’t obscured by shadow or near the house. No one else believed her, but she knew.
There was something in the house.
Something that didn’t belong there.
Something that filled every room with terror and a hunger as deep and empty as the darkness in between stars.
Sarah hated that thing. Hated the night it appeared.
Her thoughts drifted to the moment she’d first heard it.
She’d been in her room, snuggled under her unicorn blanket, her rainbow nightlight splashing the walls with color. Her mother had kissed her goodnight and sung her a lullaby. Sarah had said her prayer. Her eyelids had grown heavy and had finally closed.
Then she heard crying.
It was hard to hear over the white noise of the fan in her room, but it was there. It sounded like a woman, but there was something off about it, something that Sarah couldn’t quite explain. But she could picture it coming from someone standing over the grave of a person who had been very bad, or from a ghost with no face. When the wailing began, it sounded… wrong. It made her think of when the cable went out on her dad’s old TV and the screen turned fuzzy, but it was much louder and higher in pitch. But this wasn’t coming from any TV. It wasn’t coming from inside the house at all.
It was coming from the backyard.
Sarah’s eyes darted to the window above her bed. She pulled the covers up to her nose as she wondered what could be out there making that noise, and what had made it so sad. She knew that whatever it was must be in terrible pain, but the sound… it made her heart race. Her eyes were fused open, staring at the night sky through the glass.
She told herself to be brave. Tom would tease her if he knew she’d gotten scared again, if she cracked and crawled into the safety of her mom and dad’s bed. He’d start jumping out of closets and from around corners again, trying to scare her. And worst of all, he’d call her a baby, and she wasn’t one. She was seven-years-old. She wasn’t a baby anymore. Her teachers even said that she was very mature for her age. She talked better and thought more about things than anybody else in her class.
Besides, she thought, remembering when she’d been afraid of the coatrack at her grandpa’s house—she’d seen it in the dark and thought it was a ghost. Nothing that sad can be so scary. It’s like mom has said. Things aren’t so scary anymore when you know what they are.
That was what she needed to do. She needed to figure out what it was, and then everything would go back to normal.
She pushed herself up onto her elbows, listening. Then she grabbed the windowsill and carefully peered outside.
The backyard was lined with large trees and had a swing-set, all of which were troubled in the wind. Beyond them was a field. At first, this was all she could see. There was nothing out of the ordinary.
Then she saw a shadow. It was under a tree, just on the other side of the swing-set. It looked like a large lump against the bottom of the trunk, like something that had grown there within the last few hours. It was where the wailing was coming from.
Then it turned. Two large, yellow orbs pierced the darkness, locking onto her gaze. Panic struck her veins like lightning.
She leapt back into her bed and pulled the covers over her head.
The howling stopped.
She wanted to go into her parent’s room, but she didn’t dare move. Tears filled her eyes. She had to be brave. She wasn’t a baby.
All she could hear was the fan in the corner. It rattled a little. It was the only part of her world that was still moving.
Maybe it’s gone, she thought. Maybe it got scared and ran away.
She heard something.
Snorting. Like a pig, or one of those dogs with the smashed faces. And underneath the snorting was a soft weeping. It grew louder and louder, and with it, a feeling… horror beyond anything she’d ever felt in the safety and love of her family. Tom could be mean and her dad might yell, but they all loved each other. She’d seen scary movies, but she could always expect comfort after. But this… this was a fear without any hope of comfort. A darkness more deep and frightening than the blackness of the basement. And an emptiness, a hunger—a hunger that could never be filled. These feelings grew more horrible and consuming as the noise grew louder.
It’s just in my head, she told herself. It’s just in my head. It’s not real. It’s not real. I need to be brave. I just need to see it. I need to see what it is, and it won’t be scary anymore.
She forced herself to throw back the covers and with trembling hands, she searched under her bed for the heavy flashlight her dad had given her. She fumbled for the button as she heard scratching along the bricks, just on the other side of the wall.
She switched the light on.
The bright beam lit up the window and a shrill, inhuman scream tore through the air, filling her mind with terror. The face she saw there was the kind of thing she hid her eyes from in the scary stores around Halloween. It had tall ears, a snout and no lips. Its large, round eyes were deep in its bony skull, and its jaw unhinged when it screamed, showing broken, rotting teeth. Its long, webbed claws quickly covered its eyes as it fled her window, but it was enough. She ran, screaming out of her room and jumped into her parents’ bed, her whole body shaking with sobs.
Nobody believed her.
Her mother insisted it was just a nightmare. Tom teased her, but only for a day, which was strange. Really, everything was strange. After that night, things hadn’t been the same.
Her family started eating a lot more. Her father came home with three pizzas and two cartons of ice-cream and in one night, between the four of them, all of it was gone. The groceries that had covered the counter the next day disappeared within the following two. No one could seem to get full. Her mother cried over the clothes she couldn’t fit into anymore and her father fretted over heart disease and diabetes, yet none of them could stop eating. He wanted to make doctor appointments for all of them, but later decided doctor’s offices were too unsanitary.
And her brother, Tom, who had always been so brave, began sleeping on the floor in her parents’ room. He could never stand to be alone and followed Sarah wherever she went. All of his teasing stopped, as if the very thought of doing so frightened him more than any ghost could. Her parents couldn’t even stand to be alone. They had become afraid of everything. She came home from school one day to bars on the windows. Her father wept every time he had to leave for work, hugging them each of them as if he were sure he was going to die somewhere along the ten minute drive to the office—until finally, one day, he stopped going. Her mother wouldn’t let them go to school, and she didn’t dare use the stove or microwave. She barely left the couch, since she was certain that some terrible accident would befall her if she moved too much.
Yet Sarah seemed to be immune. She didn’t know how or why. And she knew… she knew what was causing the chaos. It haunted the shadows of her dreams, as if watching her every thought with curiosity from over her shoulder. She could feel its presence every time she passed the basement door.
The monster had gotten in.
Everyone avoided the basement. If they had to pass the door, they always did so in a wide arch, yet no one seemed to realize that they did it. It was as second nature to them as going to the fridge when they were hungry.
One day, as Sarah’s mother wept at the edge of her bed in a nightgown over the eighteen pounds she’d gained in the last two weeks, Sarah felt the need to try, one more time, to reason with her. “Mom?”
Her mother jumped, then quickly wiped away the tears and snot with her hand, arm, nightgown, whatever she could grab, pretending to be perfectly fine. “Sarah, you scared me!”
“Mom, I know what’s making you sad.”
Sarah’s mother stared at her, challenging her with despair in her eyes. “I do, too.”
“It’s because I’m fat, isn’t it?”
Sarah shook her head.
“You see it, too, don’t you? You know I’m fat.” She buried her face in her hands. “I can’t believe this is happening. I’m ugly. I’m so fat and ugly.”
Sarah shook her head again. “No, mom. You’re sad because of the monster in the basement.”
Something flashed in her mother’s eyes—an uninvited recognition, as if she were being shown a picture of snakes sleeping under her bed, snakes that she knew were there but preferred to ignore because she was too afraid to remove them. But then she smiled. Almost laughed. “Sarah…” She shook her head, looking slightly relieved now. “Oh my, you have such an imagination.”
“Not really.” Honestly, when it came to schoolwork, she felt this was her one flaw. She always got so frustrated when they were asked to write a story in class. She could never think of anything.
Her mother laughed, but it sounded off. Forced. More like someone that’d been drowning and had finally broke the surface. “Of course you do! Don’t be silly. This is proof, right here.” Her mother’s eyes softened. “I know that must’ve been a really scary dream for you. You’ve been really brave.”
There she was. There was the mother Sarah knew. She was still there, under all of the new weirdness.
But then she went away. Her eyes flashed again and that forced smile crept over her face. “But I promise, there is no monster in the basement.”
Sarah was growing a little impatient. “Yes there is! And it’s making everybody stupid.”
Her mother’s fake smile turned into a very real, very scary frown. “I guess it is. Because you should know better than to talk like that to me.”
Sarah’s stomach dropped through the floor and she took a step back as her mother stood abruptly. There was something wrong with the way she moved. “Come on. I’ll show you.”
“Show me what?”
“That there’s no monster in the basement.”
She grabbed Sarah’s arm. Hard. Pain and shock shot through her as her mother dragged her down the hallway. Her mother had never hurt her like this. Ever. It was rare for her to even raise her voice. She was so kind, so gentle. And now, the harder Sarah tried to plant her feet against the hardwood floor, the harder her mother squeezed her arm. She wanted to lay down in protest, but she was afraid her arm would break.
They reached the door and before Sarah could even blink, her mother had thrown it open. “Look!”
In the blackness at the foot of the basement stairs, she saw them—two bright, yellow orbs staring up at her, glowing like headlights shining on a reflector. Sarah’s heart leapt into her head, setting her veins on fire. She fought harder against her mother, not caring if her arm broke anymore. She had to get away from those eyes, from that thing. Her mother held her in place, “What is the matter with you?”
She looked up at her mother. What was the matter with her? Couldn’t she see it?
Her mother shouted, “There is nothing down there, Sarah! Look!”
She was looking. She couldn’t stop looking. Her mother grabbed her shoulders and shook her, Sarah not hearing a word that was screamed.
But then another scream shattered the air. An inhuman one. It erupted with a feeling of rage that filled the house.
Sarah heard the claws scratching against the steps.
She broke free and ran out into the street, not looking behind her. The thought of how the monster had hated the light of her flashlight rushed to her mind and she ran out into the patch of sunlight on the street, feeling she would be safest there.
Now she couldn’t breathe for how hard she was crying. Fear had consumed her like a disease and she felt like she might faint. But more than her fear for her own safety, she felt overwhelming anxiety for her family. She’d just abandoned them in there. Left them to be devoured by that thing. Her mother had been right there at the top of the stairs. How could she have done that? How could she have deserted the people she loved the most?
She was a coward. A rotten, little baby. Horrible. She should’ve been eaten by the monster.
After another fit of tears, she then thought, Maybe there’s still time.
Maybe she could still save them. She knew she couldn’t convince any of her family to leave. They were too afraid to leave. It was the monster that needed to go away. With the monster gone, everything would go back to normal. They would be free.
She took deep breaths, trying to calm down, to think.
She alone knew what had scared the monster that night.
The monster hated light.
She wiped away her tears and stood on shaking legs, balling her little hands into fists. She went to the car parked in the driveway and found the bright, heavy flashlight her dad kept under the seat. She would take the flashlight into the basement. She would turn on the light, and frighten it away.
With the flashlight trembling in her hands, she walked up the front steps. She wiped her face, took a deep breath, and opened the door.
Artwork: “Is There Anybody Out There” by Unknown
I love this picture. I dug around, but I couldn’t find out who the artist is. If anybody knows, please let me know!