Night light

Lying in bed is a strange thing when you think about it. We’re sleeping, at our most vulnerable, yet we present ourselves at waist height with out thin cotton sheets to protect us from the outside world. I don’t neccesarily trust the night, but some people enjoy it. Enveloped in darkness, barely able to tell if your eyes are open or closed, it gives me panic.

I used to keep a nightlight on, but not anymore. Yeah I know, I’m nearly 30 and still sleeping with a nightlight. But there’s a reason I don’t use one anymore. I want that cradle of darkness to keep out of sight all the things swimming around us, just outside of our vision. It’s easier to pretend that the things out there cannot see you if you cannot see them.

It was a hot summer night, and our A/C was on the fritz. We had a repair guy coming in the morning, but until then we made due with open windows and ceiling fans. The gentle buzz of faraway traffic and the calm whoosh of the ceiling fan made quite the suburban lullaby, and the light from the lamppost outside gently illuminated my room.

With the heat I was down to my boxers and a single bedsheet. Even though I would have been more comfortable without it, I never have been able to sleep well without at least a single sheet covering me. When I was a kid I believed that if you kept your feet outside the covers at night things could grab you. If they were inside the covers, the creatures lurking in the dark had to follow the rules. Covers were a safe zone, and you could rest comfortably knowing that you were hidden in the sheets.

I was tossing and turning as I usually do when sleeping without the modicum of creature comforts I’ve grown used to when I first heard it – the gentle creaking of my closet door. Cursing the worn latch that was the only thing keeping the door closed, I got up out of bed and made my way to the cracked doorway.

As I did I heard a low thump from the closet, almost like the sound of someone scrabbling backwards.

I froze, the beads of sweat cooling against my skin. I listened intently but heard only the gentle noise from the fan and the traffic from outside my window. It felt like minutes before I moved again, but I know now it was probably only a matter of seconds.

As though on autopilot, I moved to my dresser and opened the sock drawer. Finding the lockbox hidden under my unorganized piles of underwear and socks, I quickly twisted the combination into the lock and withdrew the snub nose .38 I had bought a few years before.

I hadn’t taken it out for years, but I knew by the weight that it still held 5 rounds of .38 hollowpoints. I grabbed the small flashlight I kept near my bed and made my way to the lightswitch near the closet.

I reached the switch near the door and raised the .38, finger sweating against the stainless steel trigger. My heart was pounding in my chest as I flipped on the light and opened the closet door. Bright light flooded into the dark space, illuminating everything I had stashed in there over the years.

Nothing was out of place. I scolded myself for being so paranoid and quickly locked up the revolver, annoyed at myself for being so frightened at such a mundane noise.

I switched off the light and went back to bed, heart rate slowly dropping to normal, when I heard the door creak open again. I almost started laughing until I hear the door fully open and hit the wall. A second later, a few plodding thuds came from the direction of the closet, and I pulled the covers down slightly to peek.

Emerging from the closet and tiptoeing as if trying not to wake me, was a being, at least nine feet tall and hunched below the ceiling. It’s long, spindly arms blindly groped at the wall as it looked in my direction, apparently unable to see the abject look of horror on my face. It continued its quiet progression and quickly slipped out my bedroom door.

I don’t use a night light anymore. If it’s still ever in my closet, I figure I’d rather us not be able to see each other.

Shadowmen

Lying in bed you’re likely to catch a glimpse of something in the shadows. Every culture has legends about shadowy figures, and ours is no exception. Shadow figures are humanoid shapes¬†the brain sometimes sees when immersed in nearly total darkness. They generally take the appearance of an adult male, sometimes wearing a distinctive hat.

They usually appear when you are falling asleep and your brain is settling down.

Usually.

Continue reading Shadowmen

Titan

I gasp for air in the drain pipe as my shoulder pounds in pain. My  vision is swimming. Slowly my eyes adjust to the darkness and my torn up palms trace their way along the bottom of the tunnel. Scrabbling deeper into the dark, I curl into a ball every time I hear that damn sound.

I had been walking home from my office when I heard it the first time. My boss, Parker, made me stay late again and I was starting to curse myself for deciding to jog to work this morning instead of driving. Taylor was trying to get me into shape for our upcoming vacation and I was doing a shit poor job of actually listening to her. I know she doesn’t want to be the woman hanging out on the beach with the husband equivalent of a beached whale, but getting myself to be motivated was harder and harder to achieve.

Walking alone down the darkened backstreets didn’t bother me. I preferred it to the howling masses that seemed to live on Main Street at this time of night, swarming between the bars and restaurants that dotted the road in the middle of town.

Alone with my thoughts and the quiet music seeping through my headphones, I made my way down the darkened alleys. I figured I was alone until I turned the corner.

“I don’t want to hurt you, man, but I will. Give me your wallet and your phone and don’t try any shit.”

The man, really a boy now that I think of it, couldn’t have been older than 17 or 18. Time stopped and I noticed everything. His eyes were ringed and bagged, fingernails ragged and chewed. He looked paler than I was, and the unmistakable tremors and sweating indicated some kind of drug use.

It’s easy to feel detached now, but then all I found myself focusing on was the boxy shape of a Glock 9mm handgun pointed directly at my chest. Adrenaline kicked in and before I knew it I was holding my phone and wallet above my head, as though they were an offering to the gods.

The kid was shaking the gun at me and yelling, but by this point I had no idea what he was saying. The sounds of the world were being droned out by the noise of blood pumping in my ears. He waved the gun, and I realized he wanted me to drop the stuff on the floor.

Practically throwing my phone and wallet, I dumped them on the floor and took a few steps back. The thief scooped them up and with that he was gone. The sounds of the world slowly faded back into perception, and I was left standing in the dark alley with nothing left but the encroaching feeling of nausea.

Then I heard the scream. The scream was panicked and primal. At first I thought it was an animal like a rabbit or something, but my brain connected the dots when I heard the clattering from the Glock hitting the asphalt.

I worked up my courage and approached the brick corner at the end of the alley. Peering around the edge, I could see the legs of the thief dangling from the rooftop as he was slowly being pulled over the ledge.

The smell of copper and ozone filled my nostrils and the only thing I could hear was a sickly popping noise. Every morning when we wake up, Taylor likes to pop her back. I hate that noise. It bothers me to my core and even though I ask her to not do it, she can’t help herself. She just grins at me and struggles to crack her back multiple times in a row. This was like that, but left me feeling like I was going to throw up.

Looking above me is when I first saw it. It’s head was shaped like an over-sized pumpkin. It’s empty, raw eye sockets stared back at me. Below it sat a gaping hole where a mouth should be.

I turned and ran. My feet pounding against the pavement as whatever it was began trailing me across the rooftops. As I passed alleyways and empty streets I realize that whatever it was, it was clearing the 20 foot gaps between the buildings as easy as you or I stepping over a crack in the pavement.

Whatever the thing is, it’s big. I can hear its joints pop as it lopes across the buildings next to me. I can hear a low dry croaking sound each time it lands after a jump.

I turn towards the river and hope to lose it in the forest lying along the shore when I make my mistake. I trip, whether it’s over a rock or hole in the ground, it ends with only one thing. I tumble down the embankment and slam my shoulder into the concrete drainage pipe.

Now, climbing through the pipe I realize that I can hide out here until morning. Then my heart sinks. I come to a locked security grate. I’m barely twenty feet into the pipe when I hear the sickening, cracking of joints and see a filthy and white bony hand work its way towards me. As I press my back against the grate, the thing leans further into the tunnel, plunging me into complete darkness.