The monster’s real.
Every second it came closer and there was no stopping it. The awful scratching and
scraping in the hall outside John’s apartment neared and would soon be at his door. He didn’t
bother to barricade it or nail it shut; nothing could keep it out.
Any detail he could imagine of the horrible thing became wiped out by the cartoony
drawings laid out on his desk. All in black crayon, scribbled on the paper like the artwork of a
young child, were the only images of the thing he had seen with his own eyes. But he knew it did
not come from imagination, nor was it drawn by a child.
The first time John saw the wrinkled scraps of paper taped to the wall in the bathroom he
thought nothing of them. He assumed some fool at work had put them there and paid no
attention. It was probably Akhil or Joe, they were always playing practical jokes. If he had
known then what they were he would have quit his job that day and never gone back.
But it was too late. It was nearly at his door and there was no forgetting what he knew, no
taking back what had already been done, no erasing the past.
He tried everything to save himself, even burning the stack of crumpled and stained loose
leaf paper, but it always came back. The first few times they returned after he’d disposed of them
he still told himself it was a very well executed prank. He went as far as thinking someone had
made extra keys to his apartment so they could plant the papers there every time he got rid of
them. But his fears were proven when he went fishing to get away from the bothersome prank
and had caught the stack of paper with his rod and pulled it out of the water. He nearly fell out of
the boat. He found them in his mailbox, in his dresser drawers, in his car, even in his pockets
when he dressed in the morning. He couldn’t escape them. And each day there were more.
Eventually he started putting them in boxes and stacking them in his bedroom. When he
ran out of room he began stuffing them in the closet. When that was full he just left them
wherever they appeared. Now he was nearly buried. Countless sheets of paper covered the floor
and furniture. He walked in it, sat in it, and slept in it. But you really couldn’t call it sleeping. It
was more like a nightmare that did not end when the sun came up.
The phone rang. It echoed in his ears, sounding far away, like in a dream. Was he awake?
Was he asleep? Was it real? He reached for it and answered. “Hello?”
“You’re not dreaming,” a raspy voice replied.
His heart stopped. His body began to tremble, the phone shaking against his ear. “What?”
“I asked if you were coming out tonight.”
He recognized the voice. “Tony?”
Had he really heard what he did? You’re not dreaming… It kept repeating in his head, the
phrase becoming a warped record, spinning and spinning, looping around itself in an insane
repetition that made his head ache.
“Yeah, it’s me. You okay?”
“I’m okay; just half asleep is all.”
“You coming to Murphy’s?”
Maybe a strong drink was what he needed, something to quiet his nerves, to keep him
sane a little longer. “Yeah, I’ll meet you there.”
He ended the call, unsure whether or not he would make it to the bar. How was he to get
out of the apartment alive? The horror that waited outside his door would surely get him if he
tried to get out that way. The fire escape seemed the only option.
He opened the window and stepped out into the full dark of night, looking back to make
sure the apartment hadn’t yet been breached by the unspeakable stalker. The door still intact, he
shut the window and climbed down the rusty stairs, dropping the iron ladder and made his way to
Looking up at his window on the second floor, he saw the lights flicker before going out
completely. He’d got out just in time. Blending into the crowded sidewalk, he had the feeling he
would never see home again.
Murphy’s Pub was only a few blocks away. He walked, hands in his pockets, not making
eye contact with anyone he passed, constantly looking over his shoulder. Paranoia had taken hold
and squeezed until his eyes bulged from their sockets, his brains surging from his ears. Each
moment of time that passed, a stabbing reminder that the end was near. Suicide had been
contemplated more than once, but he couldn’t go through with it. He didn’t want to die. He only
wanted it to be over.
Murphy’s not far ahead, the soft orange glow from the frosted glass windows spilled out
onto the sidewalk, inviting him closer. It had always been a place of comfort, somewhere to relax
his tired mind and body. Hoping it still was, he pushed the door open and entered.
Tony was sitting at the bar, drink in hand. He turned to look as John walked in, a large
grin forming on his lips. He lifted his glass in welcome. “You made it, you lazy bastard.”
John sat next to him, resting his elbows on the counter.
“You look like shit,” Tony commented.
“Thanks a lot.”
“No, I mean it. You really look like shit. Are you alright?”
“Not really. But it’s nothing a good drink won’t fix.”
“That’s the spirit! Have one on me.”
In one swift gulp he finished the drink. Throat burning, stomach warming, he was ready
“Feel better yet?” Tony asked.
“It’ll take a lot more than one.”
Two hours later the bar became a waving liquid surface and Tony’s ramblings trailed off
into white noise. His head throbbing and thoughts numbed from drink, he felt ready to face
whatever waited outside. Maybe it was the alcohol, but he gave not a care to the scrap paper that
haunted his every waking moment.
Standing with some difficulty, he left Tony at the bar and stumbled outside. The cool,
night air hit him and he felt freshened and ready to meet his destiny. He had no idea what the
time was but the absence of partygoers on the street indicated happy hour had come and gone.
The door swung open behind him and Tony came out. “The bartender told me to give this
to you, said some guy left it for you.”
Tony handed him a sheet of paper, this one different from the rest. It was not the cartoony
child-like drawing he had seen a thousand times; it was finely detailed and drawn with expert
precision. Its grotesque form sobered him instantly as it seemed to emerge from the paper into
reality. The wild eyes, bright yellow and bulging from their slanted sockets, bore into his head
like a drill. Claws reached out, hanging on wire-thin arms, inches from tearing his face to shreds.
He could hear the low growl from its throat, smell its rotten breath, and feel the heat of its
animated liveliness, ready to spring forth and take his life.
He released the drawing and let it fall to the sidewalk. It floated down, the creature inside
still reaching for him, attempting to stop its descent. It failed to catch hold and rested on the
damp concrete. Absorbing moisture the paper discolored and the inky creature lost form,
bleeding out toward the edges, its body becoming a warped version of its former self.
“Are you okay?” Tony asked, his voice soft, his words careful.
He stood trembling, unable to utter a word. How? How could it have followed him there?
Who gave the bartender the drawing? He demanded to know, needed to know. Walking past his
friend he flung open the door and charged at the bartender. His voice shaky he screamed at him
“where did you get it? Who gave it to you?”
Behind the counter the man glared with suspicious eyes. “I don’t know what you’re
talking about. Why don’t you go home and sleep it off. You’ve had too much to drink.”
“The hell you don’t know what I’m talking about! Who gave you the picture?”
A hand lay upon his shoulder. He turned and flung it off with one swift movement. Tony
backed off, his palms raised. “Sorry man,” he said, “just calm down.”
“Don’t tell me to calm down. If you knew…” His words trailed off into labored
breathing. Sweat glistened on his face, streaming down his neck. A crazed look grew in his eyes
as he looked from Tony to the bartender, back to Tony.
“What’s wrong? Maybe if you talk it will help.”
John let out a vicious, maniacal cackling that sent Tony back a few more steps. “You
really think you can help me?”
“At least let me try, I’m your friend.”
The words seemed to calm him. He felt his rage begin to subside. “Yes, you are my
friend. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay, just sit down for a moment and we’ll talk this out.”
“I’m done talking,” John said before darting out the door, back into the street. He ran as
fast as he could, leaving Tony behind. Unfortunate that he would never see him again. But that’s
what it was going to take.
It’s the only way to end it, he told himself, and it’s the only way to go. The only choice I
Police lights lit up the streets below the ten story apartment building and a crowd
gathered to witness the spectacle. Spotlights blazed in his direction, lighting up the figure poised
on the edge of the roof. A policeman with a bullhorn shouted up at him. “Please step away from
the edge,” he said. “We can talk this through.”
Talking, always talking. Why do they all think that’s the answer?
He knew better. He knew no amount of words could stop it. They think I want to kill
myself, he scoffed. They’ll see the truth soon.
He saw Tony in the crowd below. He worked his way through the people and began
talking to one of the cops. They gave him a bullhorn. “John, don’t do this. Just come down from
there. We can help you.”
I wish that were true.
Then the air rushed to meet him. He sailed towards the concrete below, and for a
moment, thought he was flying. Despite the fear it felt beautiful, it felt free. He soared into the
night, and for the briefest of moments, he was invincible.
Tony had to look away from the bloody mess. Tears rolled down his cheeks as he held
back his sobs. He looked up at the roof, wondering why. Why had John taken his life?
From above a single sheet of white paper fluttered down and landed at his feet.
By Lee A. Forman
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