I am cold. Even hidden tight underneath my warm covers, I am cold. Perspiration lays thick on my arms and clammy hands. My knuckles, so white, as they grip my frying pan's wooden handle. It won't be long now. Witching hour has come again, and just as he has before, he will return again. Any moment now, that tell-tale sound, that single thing, that gives him away every time...
I shifted my body, quietly repositioning myself. My muscles were tensed, coiled, like a snake waiting to strike, I told myself. A little gardner snake, versus the mighty cobra. Not much of a fight, but the gardner snake is angry. The cobra is veiled beneath his hood, his face sharp and silent and expressionless. It makes me shiver, and bring my knees closer to my chest. Minutes have pass, and still I hear nothing. Maybe he chose not to come. Maybe, tonight, I will finally receive the rest I desire-
He's there. For a moment, my breathing is quick and shallow, but I regain control, calm myself and return to the slow, painfully slow, deep dream breathing. His movements are silent and, usually, unnoticed. But in this old house, even he is not immune to it's failings. Old creaking squeaking give away all who enter here. No one is ever hidden from the sound of age and use. I remember, a long time ago, when my mother used to tell me that those creaks and cracks were nothing more than the settling house. She told me there was no such thing as monsters, that they could never exist. Now I know how wrong she was. Now I know a true monster.
He's coming closer. The air grows thickened, making it harder to breathe. I can see him in my mind, closer and closer toward my bedside. An impossibly dark outline against the dull white walls of my room. The curtains drawn, leaving only the red glow of the alarm clock, and a white luminescence shining between the cracks in the window, where the full moon lights the forested landscape.
He's right next to me now. He can't see my face, it's pressed against the cool wall, and buried within my blankets. I know he's there, I can feel him watching him, tilting his head in an inhuman fashion, trying to get a better look. A single, disgustingly pale white hand reaching for my covers, yearning to pull them back, and sink his claws into the little, wriggling gardner snake. Closer, closer, he leans in close, observing, analyzing. Closer...
A sudden stop. My coils are sprung, as I leap out of my bed. My frying pan soars through the air, colliding with black limbs, creating a sickening cracking sound of metal on bone. A blur of motion is all that I see as I tumble from my safe covers into a tangled mess on the floor. My head hits the ground hard, sending a terrible pain through my already aching body. Dizzy and confused, I flail for a moment, attempting to find my bearings before he finds me. I slowly rise, my eyes adjusting to the dark. My frying pan is held tight, not caring if it's wood splinters my palms.
Nothing. There is nothing around me, only the same old furniture in the corners and clothing on the floor. He isn't there. Not lurking just out of site, not behind me, not above me, not beside, no sign of his ever being there. Not even the shadow of a suggestion.
My breathing quickens. I back myself up against the mattress, frying pan held defensively. My pupils dilate and move in short, rapid movements, trying to take in everything at the same time. "I know you're there..." I tried to sound brave and unafraid, but my voice was small, and just as shaky as my tightly gripping hands.
I stand up, legs also shaky, and say a little louder, "I know you're there. I'm not imagining it. I know I hit you. I felt it."
I begin to move out into the hallway, into the living room. The bathroom's night-light plugged into the wall flickers to life at my movement, startling me and causing me to swing my pan against the wall, leaving a small dent in the wood. Still I see nothing. The further I move out, the more aware I become of a gentle breeze, and the smell of grass wafting around me. A distant click-clack click-clack of the window blinds hitting each other.
Edging around the perimeter, I find the source of the breeze, the back door left wide open welcoming unwanted visitors. "I am not afraid of you." My voice is stronger now. I am, truthfully, fearful, but the anger and rage displaces it. I let it overcome me, removing my fear.
It looks brighter outside than it does in my shaded house. The full moon is high, illuminating the backyard. It seems peaceful, calm, but I know better. I can hear the water in the creek, the frogs and toads singing and crickets playing. I step outside onto the wooden deck. At the far-side of my yard, there is a line of tall, uncut grass and weeds signifying the beginning of the wilderness and the end of safety. A forest of evergreens, ancient oaks and slender birches, white as skeleton bones in the moonlight.
I hear the leaves, ruffling together in the breeze. Or ruffling from something worse? I cast the thought aside and remember why I am here. I don't bother putting on my shoes or my jacket. The grass is soft, and my feet are well-calloused. I say aloud, "For too long have I hidden in fear. For too long have you kept me a prisoner in my own home. " No answer.
There are trails, created by the animals, leading into the darker parts of the forest. I have walked them often, and know them well, but tonight they feel alien. I know these twists and turns, the hidden clearings, the dead ends, the circles, and loops, and yet, it all feels so different, like the trees are shifting around me. Branches outstretched, waiting to pull me apart, or pull me inside their trunks, absorbing me into a place where no one will find me when I end up starving or suffocating. Dead leaves crunch under my feet. Or are they maybe the bones of small animals, and the mud is saturated not with water, but the blood of his victims. "For too long have I been fearful of the dark. For too long have I had to suffer through sleepless nights, plagued by your face in my dreams, in my nightmares. "
The trees break formation, creating a clearing. Short, ankle length, grass, peppered with patchs of moss and wild flowers. Empty. but as I turned to look for an exit, I found myself with no way out. The trees had moved into their new places, and there was no way out. "No no no no..."
I began to pace, worriedly. Anxiety rising. Heart rate increasing. Sleep-deprived eyes shifting back and forth, looking, desperately for a way though the solid mass of leaves and branches. "I can't- I can't be stuck here." Panicking, I lunged at the wall, tearing at branches looking for a way out. I swung my frying pan, making my own path. The scraggly limbs whipped at my face scratching my skin and my clothes. I ran, ran, not watching the path, only to trip on an unseen root. My face is now smeared with mud, and blood from my scratches.
I stand up and look around. It's the same. Exactly the same. The same clearing. I scream and swing my pan at one of the trees in fury. "STOP IT! What do you want from me? Why are you doing this? What are you?" Fear is rising. I trapped like a rat. Fallen into place no where to go.
I don't have to turn to know he is there. But I do anyways. Slowly my eyes turn to gaze into his blank flesh, that place where his eyes should be, but instead I find none. At one time, he looked human. At one time, he may have passed as the crude shell of a human's body, with his slender and gangly limbs. But not anymore. He is a monster, and nothing more. My headache has increased by tenfold, a terrible throbbing that threatens to split my head apart. He steps closer, his legs moving unnaturally, joints creaking and cracking, like the old house settling.
He spreads his many limbs outward, until they are all that encompasses my vision. And the power, oh, the power that dwells in his black heart is palpable and thick in the air. It suffocates me, and I briefly wonder if this is what drowning feels like. The darkness, punctuated only by his pale skin and rising moon. And yet, I feel warm. It is cold and I am more fearful than I have ever known, but as I cower against the smooth bark of the tree and try to pull myself away, he pulls me back and it is warm and noxious and suffocating. He's playing with me, testing the waters to see how afraid he can make me. He prods me with his dark limbs teasing, like a cat, as I weakly shake my head whispering, pleading, "No, no, please don't, no." I feel that there is no hope left for me, and yet, something else, deep inside, tells me not to give up.
I suddenly lunge from my place on the ground, my frying pan seems to swing of it's own accord, bashing into his skull and knocking him backwards. And for a moment, I am free. I am cold, I feel the breeze and sweat on my skin, but the moment is wasted. He was taken by surprise, and I was just as surprised that it had worked.
He might not have a face, but it was easy to tell that he was angry now. He would not let me have that chance again. Like a great skinny spider, he descended upon me. I swung once more, but the frying pan was caught and ripped violently from my small hands. His limbs wrapped tightly around my own, cutting off my circulation and numbing my body. I was pinned against the tree, twigs jutting into my back and arms. All I could do was scream. One pale hand began to pull backwards, muscles tensing beneath his velvet black suit. Another limb shot out from his darkness, wrapping itself around my throat. I writhed and shook in his grip. My voice, now hoarse and rasping from my screaming fell silent as his hand cut through me, tearing a line down my stomach and letting my insides fall out. I saw them spill, glistening red against the deep green grass. Somewhere inside my mind, there still lingered a sane part of myself, aware that I was still alive. The thought was unheard, though, as he tore my innards from their home. I couldn't I feel. I could barely see. I wasn't even aware of it anymore. All I knew was the pain, that pain that I could never describe.
I was already dead. Even before, before I struck at him, before I knew of his coming, before I saw him that summer's day, standing in the shadows. Even before all of this, I was already dead. There wasn't even a soul left in my empty body, just a few, remaining thoughts, clinging to life. It was the last thing I saw, trying to gaze through the haze and fog, those black limbs tying me back together and abandoning me. He never did give me back my frying pan.