“Hide, hide…run away. Or it will take your voice away.
Don’t look up. Don’t fall down...if it grabs you you’ll lose your sound...”
3:30 am- Somewhere in the Midwest.
Police cars and flashing lights surround a suburban home. Neighbors stand outside of their homes watching and whispering. Inside the house, officers huddle around a man sitting on a couch. He mutters to himself, rocking back and forth, holding a sleeping girl in his arms. He is clearly distraught.
A detective steps into the house, greets the other officers and calls them over. As he converses with them in private, looks of confusion spread. The detective dismisses them and approaches the troubled man on the couch..
The man doesn’t speak. He’s stares at the ground, his knees pumping nervously.
“Don. We just need to get a few more facts about what happened here. There are still some things that we aren't quite clear on.”
Don looks at the detective, fury in his eyes. “What more do you need to know? That thing, it was in my house! I don't know how it got there or where it came from but it was in her room...just sitting there watching me.”
“Is that so?”
The detective removes a small red notepad from his coat pocket and clicks his pen. He then positions himself on the couch directly across from Don. “You see Don, that's what I'm confused about. You told us it was some kind of...monster? Are you sure it wasn't a raccoon that you saw or a large cat? Maybe it got in through a window.”
“No. It was no cat or some raccoon. I know what they look like. This thing that I saw, I've never seen anything like it. It was hideous. You should be out trying to capture it, not sitting around here questioning me!”
The detective closes the notepad and glances back at the officers that had been listening in. They too were having a hard time making sense of the story.
Don then lowers his head and begins crying hysterically. The officers standing beside him move in to help but the detective signals for them to stay put.
“It had her in its arms. My little girl.”
“What do you mean Don?” the detective scoots forward. “Tell me Don.”
“Don’t you get it detective? That monster, it did something to her. She’ll never be able to tell me she loves me again. She can’t speak. That thing, it took the sound out of her!”
11:00pm (earlier that night)
“It was then that the monster ran away never to be seen again. The end.” Don placed the book down on to Julie's nightstand and kissed her on the forehead.
“Goodnight. Sweet dreams.”
As he stood up to leave the room, he turned to see his daughter hiding beneath a mess of blankets.
“What’s wrong Julie?”
She said nothing.
Don sat back down on the bed and pulled the covers back. Julie’s eyes were shut tight.
“What's wrong honey?”
“I don't want a monster to come and get me like in the book.”
Don couldn’t help but chuckle. “Julie you have nothing to worry about. It's just a story.”
“Yeah but all the kids at school say they’re real. My friend told me she saw one hiding in her closet once and she hid under the covers until it went away.”
Don walked to her closet and opened it. “See? No monsters in here.” He then made his way to her bed and got down on the floor, raising the sheet. “And nothing down here.”
Julie sat up, feeling a little better.
“Don't worry. The kids in your school just have wild imaginations. You can believe me when I say monsters do not exist. It's only in our heads and in the movies. If they were real, kids all over the world would be disappearing from their homes and that wouldn't be good would it?”
“I guess you're right.” Julie said, still a bit unsure.
“Although...” Don said, his mouth creeping into a grin. “There’s one monster I did hear about. Scientist say it’s been around since the beginning of time...”
Julie raised the covers to her eyes.
“The Tickle Monster!” Don grabbed her and lifted her up, spinning around the room.
Julie laughed and the fearful thoughts of monsters faded away.
“All right young lady time to sleep.”
Julie hopped on to the bed and Don tucked her in once more. He gave her another kiss on the head.
“OK. Now go to sleep.”
Don closed the door and went downstairs.
Don sat on the couch reviewing some notes for a presentation he had later that week. He had a sandwich on the table that he had just made and was about to take a bite when a sudden thump on the second floor interrupted him. He set the sandwich back on the plate and walked to the base of the stairs.
“Julie?” Don called out.
There was no response.
He flicked on the light switch in the stairwell and marched up the stairs.
“Julie I'm coming up. I thought I told you to go to bed.”
Pattering feet sounded from Julie’s room as he made it to her door. He turned the handle and opened it slowly to find Julie lying asleep in her bed. She was pretending and wasn't very good at it.
“Julie.” Don spoke, his voice stern. “I know you're awake.”
Caught in the act, she turned over and smiled. “Sorry. I just went to the bathroom to grab a drink of water. I was thirsty.”
Seeing Julie's bright face brought back memories of her mother. She had passed away when Julie was only two, due to complications with a serious illness. Julie was too young to remember. Don couldn’t stay mad at her for long.
“Well, you need to get your rest. We're going to the park tomorrow and the morning will be here sooner than you think.”
“I can't wait! It's going to be so much fun. Ok dad I'll try my best to fall asleep.” She turned over and closed her eyes.
“Goodnight. Again.” Don said.
He closed the door and went back downstairs to finish his work.
Don was nodding off. The T.V was left on and papers were spread all over the coffee table. Just as he was falling to sleep, the sound of skittering racing across the roof woke him. Something was up there and it was moving with great speed, starting from one side of the house and roaming to the other as if it didn't know exactly where it was going.
“Not again. I thought the exterminator fixed the issue with the squirrels.” Don muttered as he slipped on a pair of shoes.
Outside, a frenzy of barking commenced. Every dog in the neighborhood was howling and yelping as if something had frightened them. Don grabbed his coat and flashlight and stepped out the front door. The neighborhood was now in an uproar of excited barking. A few neighbors had stepped outside to see what was going on.
Don shined his flashlight on to the roof. There was nothing there, yet the barking persisted. A door opened at the next house over. His neighbor had come outside dressed in a blue bathrobe.
Don waved. “I heard something on my roof. I think the squirrels are back Henry. The dogs sure seem excited over it don't they?”
Henry nodded. “Yeah. They’re usually not like this unless they hear a deer roaming in the brush or a family of raccoons getting into the trash. Even when you had that infestation Don they didn’t make this much ruckus.”They both stared at the rooftop for a moment before a cold wind pricked at Henry making him realize he was outside without much clothes on.
“I'll bring the dogs in so everyone around here can get some sleep. You have a good night Don. Good luck.”
Don said goodnight and shined the light back to his roof. The skittering hadn’t returned and there was no evidence of squirrels or any other critter on it. He went around the back of the house to check a few more areas but still found nothing.
“Strange. I guess I'll call the exterminator tomorrow and have them take a look.” he thought to himself.
Back inside, he put his things away and laid back down on the couch. As he lay there drifting in and out of sleep, the skittering noise gradually returned. This time he paid it no mind and turned the volume up on the TV. Moments later, he fell asleep.
A booming thud slammed against the hardwood floor upstairs. Don rose from the couch quickly and searched the living room.
What on earth was that?
The floorboards above him creaked in strange rhythm, as if someone was moving around carefully.
"Julie?" Don called out, staring at the ceiling.
She didn't respond.
"What was that noise? I told you to go to sleep."
The house remained silent.
"Now you’re in trouble." He announced walking to the stairwell, positive she was up again.
"It's three in the morning and you're still-"
Before he could finish another word, the house went black. The lamps, the TV-- everything was out. Don checked outside through the window. All of the other homes in the neighborhood still had their power. He returned to the stairs and tried the light switch but nothing turned on. Tired and frustrated, he made his way up the stairs to check on Julie. When he made it to the top he looked down the hall towards Julie's room. The lining of the door was illuminated with moonlight shining in from her window. At the bottom of the door he could see an oddly shaped shadow swaying side to side.
“Julie.” Don called out.
His voice echoed eerily through the empty hallway and when it carried to the room the shadow went still.
Don massaged his forehead, growing frustrated.
“Go to bed please. I’m tired and you need your rest. I don’t want to come up here again.”
He turned and started down the stairs to investigate the loss of power in the house, but halted at the first step. It was faint, almost inaudible, but he had heard it; the muffled scream of a child..
“Julie?” He asked, raising his voice and stepping to the door.
Something was wrong and he knew it. Don stood at the door listening, praying for her to answer back, hoping she was just up for some water again. Trembling, his throat dry, Don's body stiffened as a very familiar fear crawled inside him. He sensed something terrible had happened. He wasn’t ready to deal with another terrible night like that time he found his wife….
Immediately he shook the dark thoughts, and rushed through the door, slamming it open.
At first, the room was too dark to make anything out, but within moments everything became apparent. There it sat, tucked in the furthest corner of Julies bed, crouching; a black bodied silhouette resting firmly on it’s’ haunches. Its form was that of man- elongated arms with thick and powerful legs. It also had traits of an animal; short, fine hairs covering its entire body doing very little to hide the measure of muscle and strength it clearly possessed. The ears were curved upward, like a lynx, with frayed tips at each end. Not having moved an inch, the creature glared back at Don unblinking. Its yellow gaze was hypnotic and pale, similar to a cat.
Don held his breath. He was swallowed in disbelief; trying to wake himself from what he was sure was a dream. He held on to the door to keep himself from fainting. The creature had Julie’s head firmly held against its chest, its thin black fingers covering her mouth. It kept its neck low, hiding the lower half of its face behind her head and only leaving the sight of its eyes.
Don’s heart ached as he watched Julie sitting there held against her will. She stared at him, eyes wide open, body absolutely still-she dared not move. He spoke to her but his voice carried no sound. When he tried again he realized the truth of their situation. All sound and noise within their vicinity had ceased. The thing- it was somehow manipulating the immediate space.
Don felt helpless. He stared at the creature and it simply stared back, keeping as still as a statue, giving no clue to its true intentions. Thinking only of his daughter's safety, Don made a motion towards it. The creature immediately tensed, raising its shoulders and tightening its hold. This caused the black nails resting on Julie's cheek to sink deeper into the skin. Julie winced as blood trickled down her skin and on to the bed. Don waved his hands frantically signaling for it to stop. When it did he backed away slowly not wanting his daughter to suffer again.
In the darkness of the room Don stood in wonder at how something so hideous could even exist. It was like it had come from someplace dark and forgotten, where shadows took form and unspeakable things roamed. But no matter where it was from or what it was something had to be done to save Julie.
Don crept to the other side of the bedroom with care. The creature followed his motion, first with its eyes then slowly it inched itself around to face him dragging, Julie along with it. As it moved, the claws on its feet sliced into the bedsheets. Don was faced with two choices: To fight or run. He knew that if he engaged the creature there was a high chance that his daughter would be killed, as well as himself. If he ran away, his daughter would surely be killed or taken. Trying once more to speak, he opened his mouth to try and communicate with the thing but was still unable. The creature kept still. It continued to stare blankly, grasping Julie's jaw, twisting and digging deeper each passing second. Don fell to his knees helpless, unable to plead or speak with it. Not knowing what more he could do, he cowered down and placed his head to the ground in a display of submission. He was at its mercy.
He closed his eyes and In the darkness he waited-and he waited some more. Over and over he wished the creature away in his mind. Don knew that if it didn’t leave he was going to have no other choice but to attack. There was no other way. But, to his surprise, a light tapping fell on to his shoulder. When he raised his head he found that a lamp had been turned on and power had returned to the entire house. And there standing beside him was Julie, completely alone. The creature had left.
“Julie!” Don shouted. His voice had returned and so did all other sound in the room. He pulled his daughter in and squeezed her tight, relieved to have her back in his arms.
“Thank God you’re safe!” He set her down and looked her over. The cuts on her cheeks were very visible. “Are you ok?”
Julie's mouth moved as she was tried to talk but no sound came from her.
“Julie, speak. Speak to me”
Trying as hard as she could, Julie motioned at her throat. Something was wrong.
Don gasped in horror. “Say something! Anything my baby!”
But it was too late. Her voice was gone. Overwhelmed with emotion, Don snatched her up in his arms and ran down the stairs to call the police.
The last of the squad cars left the neighborhood. A few remaining officers stood down the driveway talking amongst themselves. The lead detective came out of the home and closed the door behind him. He scratched his head, still perplexed by the witness’s account he had just listened to. Pulling out a cigarette, he lit it and brought it to his lips. One of the younger officers noticed him and walked over. He was staring at the ground and shaking his head. It was apparent that something was bothering him.
“Sir? Excuse my tone, but what exactly happened here?”
The detective took another drag and looked up at the night sky. The moon was out in full and a warm breeze had just passed through. He blew out the smoke and brought his attention to the questioning officer. “I don’t know exactly. To be honest, his story doesn’t add up and is downright unbelievable.”
The young officer responded, irritated at the detectives calm demeanor.
“What are we going to do? What if that man had a psychotic breakdown? What if the girl is in serious danger? You know we can’t just leave her here. Detective, you saw those marks on her face!”
The detective threw the cigarette down and stepped on it. “Look. I know what you’re thinking and I too have the same feeling about it, but we have nothing to go on here. You know as well as I do we can't just arrest him on a hunch. If it makes you feel any better, I’m going to leave two officers here for the next couple of nights to watch the house. You’re more than welcome to stay with them if you’d like. OK?”
The officer nodded “Yes sir. I’d like that.” He then looked away, embarrassed that he just raised his voice with his superior.
“I’m going home now kid. Goodnight.”
The detective crossed the street to his car. While placing the key in the door he glanced back at the house to take one more look. Thinking about it again, he couldn’t help but feel that something was very strange about the man's story. But he dismissed the thought. It was late and he just wanted to get home.
Once in the car, he started the engine and checked his rearview mirror. He froze and clung to the sides of his seat. There behind him, in the black haze of the street, a dark, oddly figured shadow crept along on all fours. Before the detective had a chance to react, it reared up on two legs and leapt into the sky, disappearing completely. Speechless, he rubbed his eyes and looked again but there was nothing. The detective shut off the car and got out.
“Hey did any of you see that? That--that thing!” The detective shouted, pointing toward the dark street behind him.
The officers standing in front of the house looked at each other confused. “Sir?” one of them asked.
Realizing how crazy he must have sounded and looked, the detective took a deep breath. “Never mind, must have been a big cat or something. Sorry, have a good night.” He waved goodbye and got back into his car. He checked the mirror once more then laughed.
“What’s wrong with me? That Don guy has even me seeing things now.” He turned the key in the ignition. “I got to stop these late night shifts or else I’ll end up in the loony bin.” Shaking his head, he put the car in gear and drove away.