I’ve named him Steven.
It’s what I used to name every stray cat I came across as a child. Wasn’t very creative back then, but I guess that hasn’t changed, ‘cus Steven was the only name that came to mind when the creature started dropping dead mice at my feet each night. I can’t say Steven’s exactly like those other strays, though, considering those dead mice he drops at the edge of my bed are always toothless.
I’ve started sleeping with a face mask on. Just in case Steven gets any ideas about plucking out my incisors, too.
Can’t say he’s made any moves to hurt me yet, though. Sure, sometimes I see him reaching out from under my bed, fingers as thin as needles and nails sharp to match. They make the most wretched noise when he scrapes them across the floor, like nails on chalkboard. Yet the sound seeps through your bones, makes you freeze up, sending a chill of fear down your spine. Every ounce of you shakes and you grit your teeth, a rush of anxiety shooting through you until tears prick at your eyes. Finally you gasp as Steven stops his scraping, and he leaves you an extra rat as an apology.
Well, at least his services are free. Haven’t had to call an exterminator in months.
Steven’s a big fan of rocks, too. Sometimes I find them while walking, those white rocks that feel almost as smooth as marble. I think people have noticed me smiling whenever I pluck one up -found a bag of rocks on my desk the other day, from a coworker. She probably thinks I’m some budding geologist. Really, she just gave Steven a midnight-snack. It’s a little annoying to hear those rocks being crunched at 1:30 A.M., but Steven purrs in a way that reminds me of the other Stevens — y’know, the stray cats I used to feed.
Maybe Steven’s a little more like those cats than I initially gave him credit for. He’s sure as moody as one.
One day, I’m coming home from a bar. Bought some friends a few drinks, but decided to call it a night before I drank anything myself. Still got the smell of alcohol on me, though….
At least, I thought that smell was from me. But another sniff, and–
“Hey there, gorgeous.”
My heart stops, and my eyes go wide. I want to run, but my legs are frozen in place. I feel two sets of eyes on me and a rush of panic.
“Hows ‘bout we buy you an’ther drink, hmm?” One of the men asks.
“…Not interested,” I mutter, reaching into my purse. Fuck, where’s that pepperspray?
“C’mon, don’t be rude,” The second slurs, his laugh making my blood run cold.
I’m about to call out for help, to scream at the top of my lungs until my throat goes bloody raw, but I’m still as a corpse. Everything seems to spin, spin, spin-And suddenly, the world goes cold.
Even I can feel it. This overwhelming dread pressing down on my shoulders, this feeling of eyes pressed against the back of my neck. My breath goes still and my hairs stand on end, I grit my teeth and feel a well of tears sting the corners of my eyes. My vision is a little blurry as I look up at the two men who blocked me, and sure enough, they’re frozen in place too.
This isn’t the same fear as before, though. This… this is something familiar.
I laugh. It’s shaky at first, and my voice cracks a bit. Once again, I can feel the sting of tears in my eyes and a string of tears at my chin. Those two men look to me with terrified eyes, and I can see that look, that pleading glance, that silent question:
“Are you the one doing this?”
The world goes silent. The passing cars seem miles away, the buzz of lamp posts go out. Even the stars seem to dim as the wind quiets down, and for a split second, I can’t even hear my heart beating against my chest.
I take a shuddering breath, but the men who almost attacked me are too scared to breathe.
A shadow begins to seep through a crack in the pavement. Like liquid ink, it spreads across the floor, until a web of darkness cakes the ground, forming an outline of a smiling mouth. There’s a crack, a screech, and the pavement rises, flecks of stone crumbling off it and striking the ground. A vile stench, as sickenly sweet as death, comes with it as the Monster is birthed from the earth beneath, a shadowy creature that drips like tar and moves like a snake. I can’t really make out what it looks like, but I can see rows upon rows of stark white teeth contrasted on it’s night-black flesh, and bloodshot eyes decorating it’s skin like freckles. That fear inside me builds up, and I’m sure those bastard men can feel it too, but for once, I know the dread won’t last.
For me, at least.
I’m right, of course. All I need to do is take a breath, calm my nerves, and as soon as the fear has struck, it begins to melt away. The world returns around me, my sanity intact, and I’m alone with the Monster from under my bed.
The men are gone. I don’t care what happened to them.
The Monster looks at me, and for the first time tonight, my fear is replaced by a warm relief. By now I’m crying, but these tears aren’t so fearful….
“Hey, Steven,” I whisper. “Thanks for the help, bud.”