Thunder booms through the night sky; the first sign of a coming storm. Wind howls at the trees making them shudder, bow, and scrape against anything near enough to them. Shadows and dark corners are safe from the light as lightning had yet to strike. It's in these dark shadows he slithers, pale fingers digging into whatever surface the shadows cling on to as he waits.
"Crystal, if you don't hurry up I'm going to play the movie without you!" Mom shouts teasing me as I search for the very elusive box of popcorn.
"I can't find it, where did dad put it last?" I yell back. Cans of soup and vegetables, boxes of instant potatoes, and flour/sugar containers are all I find as I dig through the pantry.
"Try the cupboard next to the sink!"
I sigh as I get up from crouching and head toward the cupboard. When I pull the door open a box of cereal falls out onto my foot, pops open and little bits of marshmallows and cereal pieces fall onto the floor. Cursing at my parents ingenious packing skills I grab the dust pan and broom to clean up the sugary mess.
"Did you find it?" Mom asks as I'm dumping the cereal into the trash.
"Uh,” I mumble, dropping the dust pan and broom back in the corner where it belongs. “Hang on.” Scurrying back to the cupboard I drop to my knees and start searching. An irritated sigh escapes me as I finally find the box way in the far back. "I found it!"
"Good, now hurry up I can't watch a movie without popcorn!" I roll my eyes at my mom's words. Honestly I could go without it but I was out voted two to one. My best friend Lauren had taken my mom's side and wanted the "buttery goodness".
Grabbing the box I pull out a packet and open the plastic covering. Once I put it in the microwave I press the 4 and let the microwave do its thing. I fell thirsty from my scavenger hunt and leave the popcorn in favor of getting a drink from my Dr. Pepper. Lauren looks up at me from her perch on the living room chair and smiles as she puts her phone down. Her straight brown hair brushes her shoulder as she does so.
"Is there extra-," she starts to say when suddenly everything goes dark. I freeze and look around confused and wondering why the power is out. Mom, who had been seated on the couch, pulls out her phone and the light shines on her face. I can hear our dog move around because of the metal clinging on her collar and I know shes jumped up by mom.
"It shows on our service providers site that our area is having power outages due to the heavy winds. I'm going to put in a report for our neighborhood. Check though before I do and make sure it's not just us Crystal," she orders eyes searching from me in the darkness. I do as she asks and check out the front window, but not before tripping on a dog toy.
"I don't see any lights on," I tell her squinting at the houses across and down the street. I jump as something darts across the road to our side of the street to fast for me to even guess what it was.
"Okay it's not just us then," Mom states distracting me from whatever it was.
We wait for a half hour to see if it will come back on again but after no signs of electricity Lauren and I decide to go to bed early. Lauren laughs at me as we climbed the stairs to my room when I complain about all the hard work I had done and it going to waste because of the power outage.
I talk with Lauren about school and our friends for a little while but sleep over takes us soon enough. The low rumble of thunder not enough to wake us up until a huge crash of lightning strikes what seems to be right outside my window. I jump frightened out of my sleep and Lauren calls my name and asks if I'm awake.
"Yeah I'm awake, I swear that had to have been right outside my window," I shiver searching for Lauren in the dark of my room. I find her quickly since my eyes have adjusted to the dark. Her eyes are wide and she is clutching her blanket on the double air mattress we had set up earlier. We both jump as another loud crash shakes the house.
"I'm scared can we go downstairs to check how bad it is outside?" she asks. Lauren has always had a thing about storms. She’s always been scared of them.
"Yeah come on," I tell her swinging my legs around to the floor and walking to my door. We head to the stairs quietly not knowing if mom is awake or not. As we round the corner lightning flashes and bangs loud making Lauren scream while I jump.
"Girls? What are you doing up its midnight," Mom asks flashing a flashlight up the stairs at us.
"The lightning and thunder woke us up, Lauren wanted to know how bad the storm was," I explain pushing Lauren to step down the stairs. She follows my mom into the living room but a light knocking sound and movement out of the corner of my eyes catch my attention making me stop.
In the glass window next to the front door is a person with a hoodie pulled over their head and their hands in the front pocket. I can't see who it is. Lightning lights up the sky and I get a glimpse of a pale face. A shiver goes down my spine as I stare at the person. It couldn't be a women, the body build was that of a man.
I watch as he takes slow breaths fogging up the glass. Something about him seems wrong. Lightning continues to brighten the world while terror rips through me as he smiles at me. His teeth are sharp and his face is cracked almost like how clay cracks when dry. The hoodie still covers half his face as he brings up his hand to the glass. Long pale fingers with sharp dark nails click as they touch the window. Like his face his fingers are cracked.
Lauren, seeing me standing still comes to investigate. The lightning stops flashing for a moment as she looks toward the glass.
"Oh someone's outside; I wonder if it's one of the neighbors next door who talked to us today? Maybe he needs help," she says going to the door. Lauren has never been shy with boys so naturally she would open the door for one.
"Lauren stop! That's stupid don't open it what if it's-" She opened the door and whoever scurried into the house so fast a gust of air rushed by me cutting off my warning.
"What the-" Lauren begins as the door slams shut in front of her. Panic races through me as I look into the living room where mom is sitting on the couch staring at her phone. She is looking up at us in confusion.
"Who was at the door?" She asks. I open my mouth but freeze as I see a pale human figure crawling on the wall above her.
"MOM! BEHIND YOU! RUN!" I scream at her. She looks more confused than worried. I take a step forward thinking about running and grabbing her but a roar makes me stop. Mom jumps and shines her light on the wall showing the pale man/creature glaring down at her. The creature doesn't like having the light on it and it roars diving at mom. I scream as my mom disappears from view and the flashlight hits the ground going out, mom's screams and our dogs fighting snarls fill the silent house. I turn and plaster myself against the wall too terrified to make a sound or move. My body is frozen against the wall as I shiver in terror.
Mom's screams and the snarls stop abruptly and a shuffling noise comes from the living room. I shake uncontrollably against the wall heart pounding fast in my chest as I hear the creature breathe in and out its mouth in slow long breaths. I silently sob and suddenly remember Lauren. I vaguely remember her running by me possibly going upstairs.
A small breath of relief passes through me knowing she's safe. Tears come down my face but the movement behind me stops me from making any sound. I hear a small noise from the floor above me and I know we will both die if someone doesn't do something. A small amount of courage courses through me as I remember the scissors mom had left on the dining room table just on the other side of the wall from me. Tears still streaming down my face, I take a shaky breath and slowly turn around being as quiet as possible and flat to the wall as I can.
Lightning shines through the house again as the storm kicks up. My courage leaves me as soon as I see the creature walking around the living room. It had removed the sweatshirt and walked with a hunched back. Its extra long arms reached out and hands grabbed onto a shirt from the laundry basket and brought the shirt to its face. The creature breathed in through its mouth deeply over the shirt a few times as if sniffing it but through its mouth.
I shake terrified as the pale creature walks to where it took Mom. The flashes of lightning keep everything lit up as I slowly edge to the doorway to the dining room. I cringe and freeze as a board under my foot makes a slight noise. A crash and more deep breathing brings my attention back to the living room. My chest hurts as my heart hammers and my eyes go wide as footsteps bring the creature back into view. I take in its appearance as it inspects all the things on the coffee table. Its rib cage is big and every bone shows in the creature’s body. It has a long torso and long legs. Its pants are tight to its body as if it out grew them. I think back to how it was in the glass window and realize it did change in size. The creature is bald and has pointy ears as well. It’s chest is covered in something dark, wet, and dripping down its body.
It lifts up a mirror and turns it around in its hand. As it’s distracted I shift closer to the door.
'Almost there,' I think to myself. But my shaky feet step on another noisy floorboard. My head snaps up to the creature to see its dark eyes looking at me. I cry out and begin to run when the creature shrieks. My heart squeezes painfully in fear. Its face is suddenly in mine and sharp red stained teeth hover above my face as it shrieks again, spit hitting my face. I was wrong those weren’t cracks on its body, they were dark veins.
Then he bites down on my face as another scream rips though me.
Remember children don’t venture out at night even if you hear someone knocking. Just turn your head and go back to sleep. Once morning comes it’s okay to go out again. But the night belongs to the Pale Man.