18 Feb Like a Moth
“Like a Moth”Written by Erick Johnson Edited by Craig Groshek Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek Narrated by N/A
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available
⏰ ESTIMATED READING TIME — 22 minutes
Danny was always afraid of the dark.
The kind of kid who’d slept with a nightlight until he was way too old. One who’d never dare to step out of his room if the hallway light was off.
I remember our first sleepover, when tucked away beneath his covers, he asked me to close the closet door for him. I’d laughed, but still did it. Something about the way the shadows fell in that little dark space was all he’d say. A perfect hiding place for something waiting in the darkness. His fear became something unspoken between us from that day on, really seen as nothing more than a quirk as we grew up. Still, I’d check the closet for monsters when he’d ask.
After college we’d simply drifted apart, our lives taking us where they would, and now, all these years later the last thing I expected was a call from him. Not in the middle of the night, trying to hide the nervousness shaking through his voice.
A day later I found myself knocking at his door, watching the sun set on the horizon. Thinking about the last words he’d said to me. Please, get here before dark.
I called in sick at work, picked up a rental car, and spent the day driving through the boonies, navigating mile after mile of country road only to find myself arriving so late.
I knocked again, starting to wonder if I’d had the right address. It was a small house, not exactly off the grid, but at the end of a scarcely populated road, surrounded by dense thickets of woodland. Not quite the place I’d expected Danny to land, somewhere so…isolated. But he was always a bit of a recluse.
The porch light hummed, seeming to grow brighter as the sunlight waned. Several moths already began buzzing around it, flitting at the glass encasing that protected the light. The deadbolt finally clicked, followed by the door gently opening a few inches, stopping at the chain lock. A thin face peered between the gap, observing me for a second.
“You’re late.” A wide grin plastered across his features as the door closed. More locks unfastened before it swung wide open again, as Danny ran out and hugged me.
I couldn’t help but smile too. Same old Danny. Small and skittish. Paranoid as all hell — maybe a bit more unkempt than I remembered.
“What’s with the security? Running drugs now?” I said, trying to lighten the air, dancing around the question I knew we were both thinking. Just why the hell was I here?
He was vague over the phone. I could hardly even understand the few words he spoke in hushed, fleeting whispers. Like he didn’t want someone else to hear them.
All that somehow fell away seeing my old friend.
“Sorry. Had to make sure it was you,” he said, gesturing toward the open door, “But where are my manners, come in, come in. It’s getting dark.”
The way he said that word. Dark.
I brushed it off, and stepped in.
He took a second at the threshold, looking out at the road. The tree line around the house had fallen into a murky silhouette against the dim sky, as the streetlight in front of the house flickered to life.
As he closed the door, I saw the side was lined with several extra locks, apparently self-installed. One by one, he checked and double-checked them, feeling each to make absolutely sure. The room was stifling, like the late summer heat had been trapped and refused to be let out. There was a staleness in the air I could almost taste. Heavy curtains hung over the windows, completely covering each one.
Danny turned, seeming to remember I was there. He was always strange, full of little idiosyncrasies. But he’d wear them on his sleeve, and I’d never chosen to judge him. But now, he seemed ashamed.
“How about a beer?” He offered, quickly breaking eye contact. At this point, I’d welcome anything to break the awkwardness. He walked to the kitchen, glancing back at the locks one last time.
I stepped to the window, pulling the curtain aside to peek out. I already felt a slight desperation for fresh air, and besides, this whole house needed a breath. Grabbing the frame, I tried to lift it, only for my hands to slam uselessly against it — the damn thing wouldn’t budge. Looking down at the windowsill, I noticed a series of small nails haphazardly driven through the wood, pinning it shut.
I turned back to see Danny, beer in hand, watching me.
“Just checking the view” I said, taking the beer offered, awkwardly scooting away.
He pulled the curtain back shut, sealing away the night. “I just prefer to keep them closed.”
We spent the better of an hour catching up, recounting the last few years we’d spent apart. At least, I thought it’d been about an hour, time seemed to move at a different pace shut in that little room. I began to relax, partly from the beer, partly from the comfort of realizing Danny really hadn’t changed, not on the inside at least.
Although, I couldn’t help but notice he’d grown more gaunt, with black bags beneath his eyes. Like he hadn’t slept a night in weeks. A nervous tick permeated from him, revealing itself through small, furtive glances at the window and door.
Still, I began to feel comfortable, almost forgetting the day before, the call in the night. Why I had come here.
I stood, going to grab another beer.
“You want one?” I asked, heading into the kitchen.
He started to say something, nearly standing up, but seemed to reconsider as I stepped out of the room, taking his silence as a no.
The kitchen bore the same atmosphere; stuffy air and curtains blocking out the windows — even the sliding glass door at the back was covered. Like the whole house was sealed away from the outside.
I opened the fridge, digging past the few containers left, reaching for the last beer in the back – as a smell quickly wafted out toward me. Rotten milk. Holding my nose, I grabbed the carton, feeling dense curdles swishing through the liquid.
Almost all the food in the fridge was covered in mold.
I stood back, holding in a retch as the smell combined with the stifling air of the house. I pulled myself to the sliding door, throwing the curtains aside, trying to open it. A metal bar had been screwed between the door and wall, jamming it shut.
I turned to find Danny standing in the doorway behind me.
“Danny?” I asked, “What the hell’s going on?”
He only looked at the ground sheepishly.
“When’s the last time you’ve been out of this house?”
* * * * * *
“It started maybe a month ago, one night.”
We sat in the living room as Danny told the story, his legs curled up beneath him on the couch, face blanketed in the light of the lamp. I chose a reclining chair across from him.
“I still don’t know why I woke up that night, just that I did. It was quiet, and I sat in my bed. Something was wrong. Maybe I’d heard a sound, or had a nightmare that’d rattled me awake. I didn’t know, there was just a feeling. Like there was something profoundly wrong. I sat there — I don’t know how long — too afraid to move.
The front yard.
That was all I could think about. I could have stayed in bed, pulled the covers up, and just gone back to sleep. I wanted to, and I wish that’s what I did. But it nagged at me. The front yard. I should have stayed. But I’m not the same scared little kid you knew. That’s what I told myself, anyways. So, I got up and went to look.”
I shuffled in my seat, beginning to regret where I had sat. Danny’s glasses caught a glimmer of light on the frame as he glanced in my direction; followed by the look of genuine fear that infiltrated his features as his eyes passed over the window. The one right behind me.
“I came out here and pulled the curtains aside, just enough to peek through. That’s where I saw it, across the road, under the streetlight.
A silhouette, like a woman, standing there, staring straight up. She was holding something dangling from her hand. It was round, and swinging by a tangle of thin, ropey strands locked in her fingers. Something was dripping from it.
I watched it sway as she stood, looking upward. Like she was transfixed, staring up toward the light. I had the window cracked open, letting the cool air in. I thought about calling out to see if she was okay. But something wasn’t right. The air outside was dead silent. I live in the country. The night’s never quite like that. The crickets, the cicadas, they only stop like that when something intrudes, something that’s not supposed to be there.”
I listened. Even through the glass and heavy curtains I could hear the cacophony of insects. The sound that had been there ever since I arrived, as my mind filed it under background noise and let it filter into the background hum of existence.
“So, I shut my mouth. I leaned over and turned the porch light on, hoping the light would maybe tell her someone was home, or maybe scare her off. I don’t know. Honestly, I was a little ashamed, cowering from someone who might need my help. But…just something felt wrong. The way she…it, stood there, like it wasn’t something human — only wearing a human’s form.
Maybe it was the way it was still just a shadow, even standing directly under the light.
I know, that sounds ridiculous. It sounds ridiculous as I’m saying it. But I haven’t told you about what happened next. I peeked back out the window. Its head was turned. Right at me. I couldn’t see eyes, but I could feel them watching me.
That’s when it took a step. Toward the house.
I ducked beneath the window. I held my head down and listened. Footsteps, walking toward the door. Padded feet crunching through the gravel. Oh god, it’s coming. I peeked back up, grabbing the curtains to pull them shut. But I stopped. There was no one in the yard. It should have been there, right in view of the window. Nothing but the night looked back. Only darkness. Maybe the light had scared it off, I thought. Maybe I had imagined the whole thing. A night terror I’d woken into. I didn’t know. So I shut the window, sealed the curtains and waited. No more steps, nothing.
I was just going to go back to my room – then I remembered the porch light. I thought maybe I’d keep it on for the night at least. Just in case. But looking at the door, I could feel my heart sinking. I walked to it, and pressed my ear against it. The night was still silent. Good enough. I’m not proud, but I ran back to my room then, and covered my head until morning.”
I wasn’t sure what to think, looking over at my cowering friend. Gone was the full-grown man, replaced with the scared child I had grown up with. The beer had begun to sour in my stomach, mixed with the noxious odor of rotting food that’d lodged in my sinuses. I desperately wanted to open a window.
“Danny, I don’t know,” I said, “I mean, what am I supposed to think of this? You think you saw a person who scared you? Maybe you did have a nightmare. One you convinced yourself was true. You know, like you used to…”
I could see the look of hurt in his eyes. But I had to rip the band-aid off. He needed help, that much was clear.
“Maybe it’s you know…a mental thing? Like maybe you should see someone…”
“That’s not why I called you.” He said, lowering his gaze. “That was only the first night.”
I leaned back, letting him speak. I’d figure something out. Some way of getting him out of this house.
“The thing is, I have a light out in the backyard, for security. It’s motion-activated. When I’m in my bed and it comes on, I can catch the light, just peeking through the top of my curtains. A sliver against the ceiling. Well, it came on the next night. Around 3 am. Then the night after. Every night. I’ll hear it outside – silence first. The unnatural stillness that settles over the woods. Then the light. Click. Just once – but the same time every night. I hear it walking out there. Footsteps walking past my bedroom window. I’ll wait, twenty seconds or so, until the light clicks off. Then, nothing. Just silence. I checked every morning for some sign — a footprint, broken branches, anything. Not a trace. Then, the next night, it’s back.”
“What does it do?” I found myself asking.
“I don’t know. It just walks by. Circling the house — like it’s searching for a way in.”
“And you’ve seen it again? Or you just think you’re hearing it?”
“I am hearing it. And…I did see it again. Only a few days after the first night. I woke up again, 3 am, a streak of light on the ceiling. Click. It goes off. I sat there again, waiting. I don’t know why, but that night, I decided to follow it. I had to see what it was doing. I walked through the house, room by room, window by window, listening. Nothing. Dead silence. I even dared to peek out the front window, toward the streetlight. Nothing. I started to think what you’re thinking right now, that this was all in my head. Nyctophobia, the doctors always called it. Fear of the dark. Maybe a screw’d finally popped loose. Maybe, I thought. Just maybe.
I was going to go back to bed. I walked over, to make sure the porch light was on…and stopped dead in my tracks. That sinking feeling again. The feeling of something standing at my door. I held my ear to it, listening. Maybe a minute passed.
Slowly, I began to hear it.
Someone was breathing on the other side.
I didn’t want to, I knew it was a bad idea, but my curiosity was burning. I looked out through the peephole. It was standing on the porch, inches away, just watching me. I jumped, pushing against the door instinctually. I closed my eyes and ran and locked myself in the bathroom without looking back. The whole night, the light on, cowering behind the shower curtain. When I came out, it was already light. That’s when I locked this place up, and I haven’t left since.”
He let his last words hang, waiting for me to say something. Maybe looking for assurance. For me to say I believed him. I didn’t know what to say.
He continued, breaking the silence, “And the thing it was carrying. What it had in its hands…I’ve thought about that a lot. I didn’t want to admit this, but I knew what it was as soon as I saw it. I’ve thought about it over and over, and I know there’s nothing else it could be. It was a human head.”
God dammit, Danny, you’ve finally gone off the deep end.
“I’m sorry, I’m just having a hard time believing this,” I said, treading tactfully “A human head? Why not call the cops? Or just leave? Walk out during the day, get to a hotel?”
“I thought about that. You’ve seen how long the drive here is. It’d be the better part of an hour before the cops could arrive. And what am I to tell them? There’s a monster outside, no evidence, not even a footprint? No head dripping blood hanging in the woods? Help me, there’s a silhouette of a woman at my window? You know how ridiculous that sounds. And I haven’t left, because…well,”
His face blushed a bright red.
“Because I’m scared, alright? I can’t leave. I’ve stood at the door, my hand on the handle telling myself to walk through. But I can’t. Because, my mind is telling me it’s out there. Waiting for me. That’s why it was walking to the door – it was a trap. I just…I’m sorry. That’s why I called you. I didn’t know what else to do.”
I chuckled, and immediately felt ashamed of myself. It wasn’t from humor, but a reflex, an attempt to ease my discomfort at the situation. I was at a loss of words. For the first time in our relationship of twenty odd years, I felt something close pity for my friend. We sat in silence, letting the humming crickets outside fill in the gap. Their noise felt comforting in a way.
He finally looked back up. Right at me.
“It got in the house last night.”
I felt myself swallow.
“In the hallway. I don’t know how. Every door and window is locked shut, you’ve seen that. But it got in. It was walking through the house — right up to my bedroom door.”
My mouth felt dry, and I was a little sick to my stomach. A side effect of the beer, I told myself. I didn’t believe his story, not at all. How could I? Danny had always been the one to believe in bogeymen. Still, I leaned forward, all too aware of the night just on the other side of the window behind me.
“Alright,” I said, fighting against my rising heart rate. “I’m here now, so what does that mean?”
“Just stay here, for one night, that’s all. Tomorrow morning, we’ll walk through that door. Please.”
He wanted me to check the closet for monsters.
* * * * * *
We ended up pushing the recliner through the hall and into Danny’s room. He insisted I stay in there with him. The clock had already slipped past midnight when I slumped into the chair, letting the fatigue and exhaustion of the day sink into the cushions with me.
I listened to Danny stepping from room to room through the house, checking each window, making sure each curtain was drawn tight. This had the feeling of a nightly ritual. The hallway creaked under his feet as he stepped to the bathroom, stopping for a moment in front of it. I slipped my shoes off and pulled the covers over myself. The air in the bedroom wasn’t as bad as the front of the house, although it felt impossible to entirely escape the humid stuffiness that filled the atmosphere. It was going to be a long night.
Danny closed the bedroom door, locking it. Just the small lock on the handle, there weren’t any of the homemade barricades on it. I guessed he wouldn’t have had time to make a latch, or maybe he’d run out of materials.
He retreated to his bed after saying goodnight, leaving the room in the dim glow of a bedside lamp. I realized he had no intention of turning off.
We sat in our respective beds, neither of us sleeping, more waiting for morning to come.
Although the silence wasn’t awkward, we’d run out of small talk since his story of monsters. Maybe neither of us knew how to follow that up. I had the feeling both of us were too exhausted either way to even try. I turned over, covering my head with the blanket in an attempt to suffocate the light. Finally, as I was drifting into sleep, he spoke.
I laughed, letting the humor slip in this time. “We’re having a sleepover.”
Danny laughed from his bed. “I guess so.”
The light still seeped through my closed eyes as sleep finally came to me. Through a yawn, the words came out half-formed.
“See you in the morning.”
* * * * * *
I woke up not much later. Covering my eyes from the light, it took a moment for my surroundings to sink in. I peeked over the blanket at Danny, fast asleep next to the blaring lamp. Shielding my eyes, I reached over and turned it off, darkness filling the room. It immediately soothed the growing throbbing in my head. I closed my eyes again, trying to fall back asleep.
It wasn’t going to happen. Instead, I sat in the dark room as the minutes ticked by, waiting. Sweat had soaked the blanket around my neck, and a damp humidity clung to my skin. There was a tightness in my chest. Like I expected something to happen.
I didn’t want to sit in that chair, waiting in tense silence, enclosed in that stifling room. I didn’t want to be in that house a second longer. Resisting the urge to tear through the door and run, instead I stood up and stretched. Like an animal exploring the bars of its cage. As if the air wouldn’t feel so dense if I got up and moved through it.
It still did.
My stomach churned and grumbled with the movement, reminding me I hadn’t had a bite to eat since the drive up, and only a couple of beers all night. I headed to the door, quietly turning the lock. Sorry, Danny, be right back. I half-whispered, half-thought as I slipped into the hall.
The fluorescent light hummed in the bathroom, spilling out over the stretch of hallway leading into the living room.
I laughed to myself. Some things never change.
I walked through the living room, passing by the door, trying to pretend it wasn’t the center of my attention. I didn’t believe what Danny had told me – and I wasn’t afraid of the dark. Still, my hair raised on end looking at that thin piece of wood, sealed shut against the night, and the rows of homemade locks. Anything could be on the other side.
But nothing was going to get in at least.
I took a single step onto the cool kitchen tile – and stopped. With a sigh, I headed back, curiosity getting the better of me. Or maybe I just needed to prove there was nothing out there. I placed my ear against the wood, listening. Not a sound. Dead silence. My body tensed, each sinew pulling taught as I leaned toward the peephole; a bundle of nerves ready to jump back at the mere sight of anything.
I placed my eye up to the glass as the porch came into view, distorted into an exaggerated fisheye perspective.
It was empty.
A breath of relief shuddered out of me, a little harder than I intended. The spike in blood pressure wasn’t doing anything for my head though, and I scolded myself for getting worked up. I didn’t want to admit Danny’s story had gotten under my skin, and despite the reassurance of the empty porch, I still felt a pit in my gut.
Like there was something wrong with what I had looked at.
I found a cup and downed a glass of water from the sink, adrift in my thoughts.
Like something was out of place.
The water helped, but still felt empty in my stomach. I thought maybe I could even brave the fridge. I’d seen a jar of pickles in there, they had to be preserved. It wasn’t a meal, but it’d last me the next few hours.
Something that wasn’t supposed to be there.
I held my nose and opened the fridge door as a blast of light flooded into the room, forcing my eyes to squint. The cooling unit hummed. Letting my eyes adjust, I reached through the old food containers, digging toward the back.
My hand stopped.
That was it. What was wrong.
The entire house had been silent since I’d woken up.
There was a loud click in the backyard as light poured through the seams between the curtains, spilling onto the ceiling. A swarm of thoughts flitted through my mind, stoked into a manic rush. The door is locked. This entire house is locked. Nothing’s going to get in.
How did I know that? My eyes darted through the room, looking for a clock. I must have seen the time somewhere, on the nightstand, or the little clock in the living room. I tried to remember, to think back at the hands, picture them at any other position — but the number was seared in my head. 3 a.m.
Seconds ticked by as I stared through the kitchen, acutely aware of my heartbeat in my ears; a rhythmic, steady pulsing. Like footsteps.
How long did he say? Twenty? Thirty seconds? I sat watching at that damn light for an eternity.
Turn off. Turn off, you son of a bitch.
I told myself to do something, anything. Open the curtains, look out.
There’s no such thing as monsters, right?
I even thought about yelling for Danny. Like a scared child. I forced myself to hold composure against the growing urge to run. There’s nothing there. Just the wind outside, blowing through the yard. Just on the other side of the curtains.
I found myself backing up, leaving the fridge open as putrid air seeped from it. There was a second click as the light finally shut off, leaving only the fridge light illuminating the room.
In the space of a breath, the curtains began to lift. Slowly at first, like a breeze were passing through, the heavy fabric over the door began to push into the room, as if someone were pressing against it from the other side. The silhouette of a head and shoulders began to take shape in the material, pulling the curtain further into the room as it dragged along behind the figure.
That door wouldn’t open. I knew that. I had felt the damn thing with my own hands. There was no way someone — or something — could walk into that room, not through a barricaded door. I stepped back more, feeling carpet beneath my feet as the curtain finally reached its end. Pulled taught against the rod, it slid over the person beneath.
The kitchen stood empty as it fell back against the glass.
No person, no monster. Just the humming refrigerator and the unnatural silence of the night.
Then a footstep. Not an auditory illusion this time, not the house settling, not the rushed sound of my heart pumping through my ears: it was the clear sound of a bare foot against tile, coming right from the empty room. Followed by another, closer. Then another.
Like it was walking toward me.
All at once, as if crossing a threshold, it appeared directly in front of me; in a single step transforming from pure blackness into a complete human silhouette in the light of the fridge.
I stumbled back, falling to the dark ground in the living room. I thought I’d have screamed. Or run – or done, well, anything. Instead, like a deer in the headlights, I only managed to look up and gape silently like an idiot. Suddenly, I understood why Danny couldn’t leave the house. It’s easy to imagine what you’d do when confronted with the bogeyman — if you don’t believe in it.
That quickly changes once you do.
In front of me, where there should have been a person, instead stood a human form cast completely in shadow; the shape of a woman, just under my height, with long, tangled hair falling over her shoulders and rickety legs that twitched as she stood.
The silhouette took another step toward me, reaching out with a thin, emaciated arm. I looked to the door — and the rows of locks I’d never be able to open in time. Even if I was wrong about anything getting into this house, I sure as hell wasn’t going to get out. My legs had turned to mush. I couldn’t even run if I tried, much less stand up under my own power.
I turned back, ready to face it right in front of me.
Instead, it stood at the same spot, turned toward the fridge and staring into it; a single hand reaching toward the light. There was something unnatural in the way the light spilled over it, as if struggling to wrap around the thing’s skin. Mostly silhouette, I could notice just enough detail to make out its cracked, protruding fingernails, stained with a splattering of deep burgundy.
All I heard was my own sharp breathing as it rattled through the empty house.
The silhouette focused on the fridge, hand mechanically grasping the air in front of it. Like it didn’t even know I was there. Maybe it was looking for food, like the smell had somehow lured it in.
With its attention focused away from me I found a sudden welling of courage, enough to hesitantly crawl toward the hallway, moving as silently as I could. Transfixed on the fridge, it’s body gently swayed as if in a trance, the vague outline of gnarled breasts on its chest rising and falling as it breathed.
I pulled myself around the corner and into the safety of the hallway — Danny’s room at the end and the open bathroom door in between. Holding the wall, I lifted myself, desperately stepping toward the room when a sudden rattle of jars clinked from the kitchen. I whipped my head back, heart plummeting as I watched the light cut into a quickly disappearing sliver across the living room.
It must have bumped into the fridge, swinging the door shut.
Darkness enveloped the living room as the fridge sealed shut, followed by another footstep against the tile. The only light in the house now spilled out from the bathroom next to me.
I thought about hiding in there, barring the door and waiting for morning. But I hesitated at the threshold. This thing had gotten into the kitchen and I wasn’t so sure the bathroom door would stop it either.
Deep down, something else told me that was a bad idea. Something that I knew but couldn’t logically tell myself. I couldn’t walk into that room. Another step came from the kitchen, growing louder, quicker.
Instead, I reached my hand around the doorframe and found the light switch against the wall. At the end of the hallway a depression, the size of a foot, sank into the soft carpet. I pressed the switch, sending the house plummeting into night.
Silence. I stood in the pitch black, listening as a floorboard creaked at the end of the hall. Then nothing. Gently, I began feeling my way toward Danny’s room as my ears strained against the space between the walls, listening for even the slightest movement. The soft compression of carpet beneath bare feet. My own breathing. The skin of my fingertips tracing along the wall. Another arduous step. The cold metal of the doorknob. I turned it.
Sliding into the room, I closed the door, holding the knob turned in my shaking hand as I tried to avoid the loud click as it shut. The drawn-out, moaning screech of a hinge reverberated through the room and into the hallway.
I stepped back, acutely aware of every creak, rustle, and murmur through the house. I waited. For footsteps in the hall, to hear it at the door, the hinge squealing as it groaned back open. Outside, the wind rustled through the woods, slipping through the creaking, moaning trees. My own stifled, short breaths, and the deep resonant inhalations from the sleeping Danny.
Feeling my way through the room, I brushed a curtain with my hand, letting a thin stream of moonlight fall over the bed, just enough to see by. I scanned over Danny, still fast asleep, then the black corners of the room. It was empty.
I found the sofa chair and sank back into it, my legs finally giving out beneath me. I wasn’t sure what to do now – other than wait for dawn. Maybe I could get Danny, and we could slip past it into the night. He’d know how to open the locks, or we could unseal a window and slip out. Or maybe there was some way of fighting it. Something we could do to hurt it.
I looked at Danny, letting that fantasy slip away. Poor, poor Danny. I thought about the monsters he’d spent his life in fear of, hiding away from. Even if my mind was committed, there was no way my heart, still burning with fresh terror, would let me even stand out of this chair. I might as well cover my head with a blanket and hide until dawn.
I’m sorry I didn’t believe you.
That’s when I heard it. Just feet in front of me — a third set of breathing. Shallow, struggled breaths.
It was in the room with us. I held still; every nerve frozen as I strained my eyes, struggling to make out a silhouette in the draped shadows that hung across the walls. At the door, just feet away from Danny’s bed, I began to make out the vague shape. The rustle of sheets came from my side.
I turned to see Danny, half awake and leaning up in bed, grabbing his glasses mechanically from the nightstand, sliding them over his ears. I wasn’t sure if he could see me in the dark, looking back at him. All I could do was silently plead, as I watched his expression turn from confusion to a look of abject horror as he became aware of the darkness.
I wasn’t sure if I said it, or screamed the words in my head, but a loud resounding NO shook through me. Maybe it was too late. Or maybe I just couldn’t bring myself to move, or even try to stop him.
He turned on the light.
Frantic, in the space of a blink, everything happened. A single flash of light. Half falling from the chair, I grabbed at the cord, yanking it from the wall. In that split second, as the room filled with light I saw it. The shape of the thing in the room with us. And Danny, staring at it.
A scream; the sound of mortal terror, high pitched and piercing. It was the sound of a scared child confronted by the thing he’d feared his whole life; the monster in the closet standing at the foot of his bed, not afraid of the light, but drawn to it.
Blackness covered everything again as the light died.
I stumbled from the chair, reeling blindly in the dark. Frantic and feral, grabbing, pulling. Anywhere away from that bed. I grabbed something, a door, and pulled myself through. Pulling it closed behind me, I turned, immediately finding myself against a wall. Then another, to my side.
I was in a small room, windowless and cluttered, no more than a few feet wide. Finding nowhere else to crawl, I curled myself up tightly into a corner.
Then I did the only thing I could. I hid.
I don’t know how much time passed, how many hours or days that slipped by in the darkness.
Nothingness and silence. My eyes were clasped firmly shut, blocking out everything.
I waited as the footsteps moved through the room one last time, as they stopped, just outside the door I hid behind. I waited even after the thing’s breathing was drowned out by the returning insects and birds that filled the morning air with their songs. When I finally opened them, a thin lattice of light, cold and white, slipped through the slatted door next to me, leaving a pattern against the wall.
I managed to peek through one of the slats in the door, spaced just far enough apart I could press my eye against it and peek through. Danny’s room, and the back of the sofa sat in front of me.
Everything finally clicked. I was in the closet.
I strained, looking out, leaning against the wood as silently as possible. The first rays of morning, barely peeking over the horizon, had slipped through the open curtains, cutting a line through the room, all the way to me. Most everything else was hidden behind the sofa, although I could see about half of the bed and the door.
I couldn’t see a sign of Danny, or the silhouette. Just the empty room in front of me.
I finally crawled out when I had no other choice. When I was sure night was going to descend again with me hiding in the shadows at the back of that closet.
I wasn’t going to spend another night in that house.
It was already late into the afternoon when I unbarred the door and stepped out onto the sun-drenched terrace, no idea what had happened to Danny, other than he was gone.
Although, I wasn’t surprised when the months had passed and I’d never received a call, from him, a relative, or even the police. He was a recluse, after all, more so than I had thought. A person who could disappear without a trace.
Still, on some nights I’d wake in the darkness, listening to my wife breathing next to me, and I’d look at the phone, wondering. Waiting for it to ring.
That was until just last night. When I woke up in my apartment, stillness hanging in the air. When I followed a feeling out into the living room and looked through the window down into the alley below. When a passing car, for the briefest second, illuminated the thin space between buildings. When for that brief second, through my sleep-filled eyes, I saw a shape. The vague silhouette of a person, standing in the dark, holding something small and round in its hands — and the sudden metal glint of glasses that came from it.
All I know is I’m sleeping with the lights off from now on.
🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None AvailableCraig Groshek Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek Narrated by N/A