I awoke that night to Echo, my dog, barking up a storm. He was perched on the edge of my bed, facing the door and yapping away like crazy. I scratched him behind the ear to get him to calm down and guided him to his usual spot on my bed.
In hindsight, him barking was the first warning.
My brain, overactive as it is, was curious as to why he was behaving so oddly. Echo rarely barked at anything, so it was unlikely he was barking at nothing. Perhaps there is a skunk in the yard, I thought to myself. Seeing as how I was half-asleep at the time, that explanation seemed perfectly logical. Had I been more aware, I would have realized that any skunks in the neighborhood would be weeks into their hibernation this time of year. Even if they weren’t, the vicious snowstorm outside would deter them from wandering about.
I attempted to fall asleep after that, and how I wish that I did. Unfortunately, due to my habit of sleeping with my mouth open, I was becoming increasingly aware of how thirsty I was. I tried to stay in the warmth of my bed for as long as possible, but it wasn’t long before my tongue felt like sandpaper. It was clear to me that I wouldn’t be able to sleep without a glass of water.
I told Echo to stay and slipped into my moccasins. The air outside my nest of blankets was freezing so I put on my housecoat as well. When I left my bedroom, I noticed that the basement television was showing static. Mother probably forgot to turn it off after watching her murder mysteries, I thought. The TV’s playing static because of the storm outside. It’s just messing with our cable. Another logical explanation, which would be far less logical if I were fully awake. My mother, no matter how tired she was, would never leave the television on. She’s far too meticulous to do something like that. In my sleepy brain, however, it made perfect sense. I couldn’t find the TV remote, as the room was dark and I didn’t want to accidentally blind myself by turning on the lights, so I left the TV on.
I should’ve turned back, crawled back into bed and waited for morning.
I climbed the stairs to the landing, which was bathed in an orange glow, cast by the streetlights reflecting off of the clouds above. From up here, I could hear the wind battering itself against the house’s walls. I was starting to wake up a little bit. I noticed that the deadbolt on the door was unlocked.
That was my final warning.
My parents felt that it wasn’t necessary, what with the storm and all. The seeds of doubt began to form in my mind. I knew that that wasn’t the case. Some new neighbors have been suspected of breaking into people’s houses and stealing their liquor. My parents, being collectors of fine wines, have made it a habit to lock the deadbolt every night for the past few months, even when the act was completely pointless. My conscious brain was starting to wake up, starting to notice these things. A feeling of uneasiness began to pool in my gut. Still, after locking the deadbolt, I continued to the kitchen.
From the kitchen, I had a clear view of the living room, and while I filled an empty glass with water from the sink, I not only noticed that the television up here was also showing static, but that there was a figure seated on the couch. Don’t worry, I thought nervously, that’s just Dad. He’s been sleepwalking again. This time, I was fully aware of the flaws in the this ‘logical explanation’; the fact that the figure on the couch was bald and plump, while my father is lean and his hair is only beginning to thin. The fact that my father has been taking medications to prevent his sleepwalking. The fact that I could hear him snoring from my parent’s bedroom. I tried to disregard these thoughts, to push them to the back of my mind like I had done before. This time, it didn’t work.
I gently set my glass on the kitchen counter. My hands were cold and clammy, shaking in terror. My heart rate was increasing and my breathing was rapid. Even in the confusion of the moment, I knew that this wasn’t just some regular burglar, I doubted that the thing on the couch was even human. I reached for the phone to call 911, only to find out that I couldn’t get any service due to the storm. Frustrated and confused, I started randomly pushing buttons on the keypad.
That’s when I heard the thing move. The sound wasn’t loud, but it was enough to make my blood run cold and send clammy sweat down my back. It was the sound of bones popping, not just a few either; it sounded like an entire room full of people cracking their necks, backs and knuckles all at once. I turned from the useless phone to look at the creature for the first time.
It was now standing, facing me and illuminated by the orange glow from the living room’s window. It stood at about six feet tall, was completely naked and was rather plump. Its skin was a sallow grayish color and looked almost slimy. The creatures arms dangled as if they were boneless and at the end of each was a gnarled mess of fingers. The worst part about the creature, however, was its face. The thing had no nose, only two slits where its nostrils would be. Its eyes were hollow, white orbs that seemed too large for the rest of its face. As for its mouth, well, it didn’t really have one. It looked as if its entire lower jaw had been knocked clean off the rest of its face, leaving a swollen, pink tongue hanging against its neck.
The creature started walking towards me, making that awful sound with each step. It looked like it was trying to speak to me, but without its jaw, the tongue could only wriggle around helplessly as sinister moans escaped its throat.
I did what anybody else would do in that situation. I ran like hell.
When I got to the landing, I closed the door between the landing and the first floor. I had three options: I could surrender myself to the creature, I could run downstairs, which would eventually lead to a dead end, or I could run outside and face one of the worst blizzards of the decade. None of my choices were desirable, but I knew that I’d be dead anyway if I kept standing there. I didn’t get much time to choose though, as the door between me and the creature swung open, revealing that thing in all its grotesque glory. It began to descend the stairs toward me. I made my decision, and as stupid as it was, I wouldn’t be alive if I hadn’t done it. I unlocked the deadbolt and ran outside.
For the first few seconds, I felt absolutely nothing save for the adrenaline and fear surging through me. Looking back at the house as I ran, I swear I could see the creature looking at me through the kitchen window. It looked almost… happy.
By the time my house faded into the blizzard, the cold was starting to set in. Wearing only pajamas, slippers and a housecoat, it wasn’t hard to see why. I continued running, in fear that the thing would chase me, but I was starting to go numb. By the time I reached the highway, I couldn’t feel my fingers. By the time I noticed the approaching headlights, I couldn’t feel my toes. By the time the vehicle had stopped in front of me, everything was starting to go black.
I awoke several hours later to the sound of a machine beeping. At first, I thought the whole thing was a nightmare, that I was back in my bed and that my alarm clock was telling me to wake up and go to school. I began to regain consciousness and realized that I was no longer wearing my pajamas, rather I was wearing a hospital gown. There was a nurse standing above me, checking my vitals.
Apparently, a tow truck driver had found me on his way to a job. He did what anyone else would do if they found a teenager running like hell in the middle of a snowstorm at midnight and rushed me to the nearby hospital. I was admitted to the ER with severe frostbite and a moderate case of hypothermia. My parents were contacted immediately and at first, it seemed like I was going to go back home again. That is, until the doctors asked why I was outside in my pajamas in the first place. I told them the story as I couldn’t think of any excuse that sounded less crazy.
As one might expect, I was shipped off to the psyche ward. That is where I’m typing this now. See, the doctors can come up with any number of logical explanations. They can tell me that I was hallucinating, that I was having a nightmare, that I was over-stressed. With a medical degree, one can explain any unnatural phenomena with enough pills and prescriptions. But just because an explanation is logical, doesn’t mean that it’s true. At first I believed what they were saying, at first it all made sense. But something that happened later in the day changed that.
I was reading a book in my bed, starting to come to terms with what happened, when the TV in my room flickered to life. It was showing static. Outside the window, I could a gray figure outside the hospital. Even though I was on the fourth floor, I could tell that it was looking directly at me.