Monsters Take Many Forms

"Monster" can mean something different to everyone. Fear is very individual. A short story written for a Halloween edition of my school newspaper.

Parts of this may or may not have happened to me in real life.

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1. Monsters Take Many Forms

This can’t be happening. What am I supposed to do?

It’s staring at me from across the room, settled against the door. Beady eyes tear across my form as it challenges me to move from the spot I’m huddled against. The creature twitches slightly and I recoil even further into the wall.

I can’t breathe. The sounds coming from my mouth are unfamiliar as they reach my ears. Wheezing, coughing, breath much too rapid. My mouth is painfully dry, and my tongue is swollen as I try to swallow. A hard lump goes down my throat, which I’m pretty sure is my heart.

There’s no escape. I had come into the room to change after I came home from work, unaware of the beast’s presence. Only once I’d turned around had I realized the horror in the space with me, the sight eliciting a shrill screech from my lips.

Now it lounges on the bedroom door, the only exit from the room. I understand that I am not fast enough to evade it should it come after me. I can’t open the door without nearing the hideous thing, and it knows it. It mocks me silently as it continues to observe my shaking.

I’m barely standing as I return its gaze fearfully, my legs trembling with such ferocity that I need to hold onto the bedside table next to me for support. I force myself to loosen the death grip of my clenched fingers, color returning to the previously white appendages. They aren’t still when I run them across a nearby framed picture on the furniture, the image capturing Jackson and I seated together at the beach. I’m hoping the sight will calm me down, but it isn’t working. The thing in the room is huge.

Its grotesque body contorts against the wood, spindly legs incessantly feeling around. The mottled brown of its wings looks rotted, not unlike the creature itself. A long, slick abdomen lays beneath them, appearing to pulsate. I feel nauseated.

It moves lower on the door, and for a moment I am paralyzed as I watch it. Is it going to move? It travels a bit more before stopping, merely sticking to the surface with its feet.

Okay, calm down. I can do this. I can get away. Right?

Think. Breathe. That’s what I need to do, think and breathe. I drag in something ragged that can’t be considered actual breathing, but it’s the best I can do. Now time to think.

The window? No, I’m up too high. I curse my love for the 6th floor view when Jackson and I bought it. Okay, what else? No more doors. Is this the room with the attic door? No. God, how I wish I had the creepy door right about now. I wouldn’t even care if some other nightmare was up there. Anything to get me out of this one’s line of sight.

Could Jackson help me? I check the time. Oh no. He won’t be home for at least another hour, and that’s if there’s no traffic. Who knows what this thing could do to me in that time? No, I am going to have to help myself.

Do I have any chance of killing it? I guess, but considering how fast it was when it announced its presence by flying by, I doubt it. I don’t even have anything with a long enough reach to get it. The other choice is to kill it close range, but the thought of getting near it causes a deep dread to spread throughout my chest.

The only option left is to make a run for it. I’m going to have to lunge for the handle on the door and wrench it open with enough force to jar the creature off, giving me enough time to slip away. Maybe I can barricade it inside.

I’m going to have to be stealthy and quick. I release my death grip on the dresser, preparing myself. Okay. Okay. I can do this.

I circle around the bed, watching the wings flutter ever so slightly. It hasn’t moved much. I step a few times, cautious, and my eyes are trained on the figure.

Move. Come on. Just move a little to the left, I need to get to the knob. Yes!

I creep forward, timid. It still isn’t moving. My heart is slamming against my ribs, aching as I nudge ahead. My breathing is even more rapid now, short gasps escaping me. My lungs are constricted, feeling like they’re weighed down with iron. The hair on the back of my neck stands at attention like a well-trained military unit. Goosebumps trail up my arms, shivers accompanying them.

I’m almost to the door now. My legs are shaking worse than ever, so bad I can barely even stand. I can feel the tears pricking my eyes, the sting bringing with it a blur of tears that obscure my vision. This only lends to my growing panic.

I’m within reaching distance of the door knob now. Unfortunately, the close proximity to it also places me near the monster. I can practically feel it shift back and forth on its legs, the distance between us seems so small. I’m close enough I could lean forward and touch it, not that I have the desire to do so. The sight of it is even more ghastly from where I’m standing. Fueled by my terror and vivid imagination, the revolting patterns on its wings twist into grim images of haunted faces.

The beast stares at me, unflinching, daring me to edge closer so it can attack. The dark eyes appear to be endless. The black depths of its soul seep out from the sockets, trying to pull me in. It undulates where it sits, legs poised to press off its surface quick as lightning should I move. It’s now or never.

I lunge for the door, and this is when the creature strikes. It slams into my arm, causing my immediate recoil. It dives again, this time aiming for my face. I shriek and pull back, ducking as I do so. I turn, driven away from the exit by the relentless creature. Where can I go?

The sound of wingbeats fills my ears, growing louder until it’s the only thing I can hear in between the pulses of blood rushing through my heart. The constant roar of my heartbeat deafens me as I skitter around the room to avoid the continuous assault.

The creature swoops down wildly, tracing an erratic path around the room. I dash to hide behind the bed, trying to keep my eyes on it. But as I rise again, I don’t see it. I’ve lost it. This is bad. This is extraordinarily bad.

It’s too quiet. I can’t hear it brush against anything, only the sound of my still frantic breathing. The light of the day has begun to fade, the sun lending its support and safety no longer. A dim crepuscular ray is the only thing penetrating the shadows now invading the room. Is it safe to reach for the light switch? It’s all the way across the room, and with no knowledge of the whereabouts of the nightmare hunting me, the voyage seems too precarious.

How could I have lost something so spine-chilling? How did I let it out of my sight?

The moment of quiet continues as my eyes scan the area, desperate to find it again, muffled noises of traffic outside sounding in my ears.

Then something collides with the back of my neck, the feeling of six individual legs suctioning to my skin. I scream again, fumbling with my shirt as I try to shake off the horror clinging to me. My fingers brush against it, and I have to hold down the bile rising in my throat at the touch. I finally manage to fling it off of me, and I sprint towards the armoire. I can’t escape the beast’s torment from an undefended position. I trip on the leg of the desk chair, crashing into the side of it and landing sprawled out on the floor. The air in my lungs leaves me for a moment, but I shake my head and spring back into a standing position.

Once I reach the armoire, I take a glance back to see the creature still zigzagging across the room. It’s making its way over to me. I climb in, shoving back coats and scarves to make a crevice I can fit in. Now the winged being is flying straight at my position, and I’m struggling to close the panels because of my legs. I jam my back against the wood of the furniture, pulling my knees up as far as they go. I thank every deity I can think of it when the doors finally close. I’m safe, for now.

I suddenly hear a resounding thud against the wood. The awful thing residing outside is scrabbling against the armoire, attempting to find purchase on its exterior. A constant buzzing sounds lightly, a noise unnatural and disturbing to me.

Tears pool up in my eyes again as I bury my face into my knees. For a moment I have the urge to call Jackson, to hear his voice. I’m just so scared, I need someone I trust to talk to. I want to listen to anything that’s not the disjointed breaths of air my lungs struggle to pull in. But I now realize I’ve carelessly left my phone out on the table in the living room. I’m utterly alone. A broken keen escapes my throat as I realize the desperation of my situation.

The sound of the wings brushing against the wood startles me once again. How long have I been avoiding the monster? Half an hour? Maybe even a full one? The rapid, fluttering appendages outside keep connecting with the wood panels softly, causing me to curl even further into myself. My back is throbbing, a sharp pain lancing through the spot where my spine is wedged against a corner. I’m not sure how long I can hold this position, but I don’t intend to face the object of my fear.

Time passes, the dim light coming through the cracks on the armoire fading away until I am left to sit in the gloom of night. My body has stopped feeling agony, now only presenting me with the dull, numbing sensation of poor circulation occasionally punctuated with pinpricks. The creature has ceased to make any noise, but I know it’s just waiting for its chance to strike again.

I hear rustling from another room. Is Jackson home? I hope desperately this is the case.

“Sarah?” I hear a muffled voice call. “Are you home?”

I have to call him. If he thinks I’m out with friends I’ll never be able to leave. How can I respond without endangering myself?

“Sarah?” Jackson calls again, this time closer.

“In here!” I shout, panicked. “In the bedroom!”

The light switch is flicked on with a click, and a warm glow slips through the cracks.

“Where?” I hear him ask in a confused tone.

“Umm,” I comment hesitantly, “the armoire?”

There’s a moment of silence as he takes in what I just said.

Then I am momentarily blinded as the doors swing open.

“Sarah?” Jackson asks once more, this time incredulous. “What on Earth are you doing in here?”

“I, uh,” I start, but abandon the thought when I see the monster rise up from behind him. “Watch out!

He stiffens slightly when the creature makes impact with his face, bouncing harmlessly against his skin.

“Oh, look,” he says, realization filling his eyes. “It’s a moth. That’s why you were hiding, isn’t it?”

“Get it away!” I squeal as the insect flutters towards me. “Close the doors!”

Jackson bites his lip to keep in a laugh, and then sighs.

“Calm down,” he soothes, “I’ll get it.”

He herds the moth away from my scrunched up form before carefully reaching up to snag it from the air.

“Want to see it?” he teases.

“No! Stop it! You know I’m scared of them!”

“Okay, sorry,” he responds, not in actuality looking apologetic. “I’m just trying to show you they’re not that bad.”

He transfers my worst nightmare to one hand, walking to the bedroom window to open it. He makes sure the animal flits through the frame before closing it again.

“There,” he says, “it’s safe now. The absolutely harmful monster is gone.”

“Don’t be a jerk,” I answer, attempting to push myself out of my spot now that the danger has gone.

Jackson strides over to pull me out after my efforts are not successful. I resist the urge to crush him in a grateful hug.

Being engulfed in panic any time I see a moth certainly makes my life difficult. Summers in the apartment are sheer terror for me. Thank god for fearless boyfriends. Or at the very least, boyfriends that are fearless of moths. Jackson’s pretty scared of outer space. I took him to see an astronaut thriller last week and he almost cried. There will be no museum trips to that new space exhibit for us.

“You do know it can’t hurt you, right?” he asks dubiously, almost as if he can’t quite wrap his head around my actions.

“You do know what a phobia is, right?” I ask back, matching his tone.

He shrugs, seemingly accepting the question as more of an answer.

“Besides,” I retort, “I just read an article about this girl who had to have a moth removed from her ear. While it was partially alive.”

“You, my friend, need to stay away from the internet.”

His quips are not meant to hurt, but to instead calm me down. The familiarity of his joking makes the fear of the last hour or so melt away. He ruffles my hair affectionately before giving me a quick peck.

“Come on,” he says, gesturing his head to the door, “let’s go get some dinner. We’ll go somewhere inside so you don’t have to worry about the night lights attracting any more bugs.”

The scent of the cooled off tarmac invades my nose when we step outside to the car, the sound of cicadas and commuters commingling in my ears. As we drive out to the restaurant, the cool night breeze weaving pleasantly through our hair, Jackson speaks again.

“How long were you trying to avoid that moth?” he asks.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” I reply, gazing out the window.

“It was more than an hour, wasn’t it?”

“Shut up.”

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