Something Wicked This Way Comes
Volume 1, Issue 3
As she whimpered, his fetid breath rasped over her face. “Why did you lie to me, Mommy?”
“Mommy, I’m scared.”
“Oh Jason, not again. We talked about this, remember? You need to sleep. You have a big day tomorrow with the field trip.”
“Trust me on this, honey. I promise you. There are no such things as monsters.”
“Ok, mommy. You really promise?”
“I do, baby.”
She sighed. “Sure. Sleep well, ok? I love you, Jason.”
“Love you, Mommy.”
Stella walked down the narrow hallway to her bedroom. Shutting the door after her, she shrugged off her robe and stood by the bed.
I should probably speak to his teacher tomorrow. Maybe something was going on at school, she told herself.
She was so lost in thought that she almost didn’t hear it the first time. A high, childlike voice. A voice she knew and loved.
She turned around in confusion and saw him. Her eyes widened. He was almost exactly the same, but…so wrong. Almost as if he had been reassembled in a hurry. She saw spines and hair where there should be none, and rows of small, pointed teeth. God, those teeth! His talons clicked along the old wallpaper as he shuffled towards her.
Maisy heard voices from down the hall. Ever since Jason died in his sleep 2 months ago, her Mommy spent her nights “talking to Jason” and crying in his bedroom. It was a heart-wrenching sound that made Maisy feel small and helpless. She was about to get up when she heard her mother whisper, “I love you, Jason,” and walk to her bedroom.
The trees outside her window creaked in the night wind. Maisy hated this house. It was tucked away behind acres of rolling farmland and their nearest neighbour was more than a mile south. The night Jason died, it took the ambulance 40 minutes to arrive, and the paramedic swore he was driving at full speed. Engulfed in her lonely thoughts, Maisy hugged her pillow, closed her eyes, and willed sleep to come.
And then the screaming started. Loud guttural sounds. Confused, but petrified, Maisy covered her ears and huddled deeper into the bed. Something was wrong. Very wrong. “Please, please, please, please,” she mumbled, unaware that her lips were moving. She closed her eyes shut and for a second everything was blissfully dark and quiet.
Then the screaming started again, followed by slurping, tearing sounds. Maisy was eight years old and usually afraid of very little, but right then she wept like a terrified baby. She wanted to go help her mom (“Mommy please, please, please”); but she couldn’t will herself to move.
The sounds stopped as suddenly as they had begun. The silence that followed was deafening in its emptiness. Maisy opened her wet eyes. Her room looked exactly the same as before. The door leading to the hallway was open, illuminated by the pallid glow of her rocket ship nightlight. Minutes that seemed like hours passed. She finally moved and tumbled down to the ground — her legs entwined in her blanket. She felt wetness on her pajamas, and wanted to cry again. Her mommy had been so proud when she’d stopped wetting the bed last year.
She threw off the blanket and stood up unsteadily. Walking quietly to the door, she peeked outside. The hallway was empty. Nobody and nothing there. She took a deep breath and stepped outside. Her mother’s bedroom door was shut. She bit her tongue to keep from crying out. Reaching forward with trembling fingers, she turned the knob. “Please, please, please, please,” her lips moved silently.
The door opened, and the smell hit her. Rank odors of blood and bile. Her mouth a perfect circle of shock, she couldn’t look away from the mangled mess in front of her. Was that…was that bone? Her chest heaved with short, painful breaths and her vision started to get blurry.
The thing-that-was-not-Jason shambled out of its dark corner and looked at her with those cold, empty eyes. Except it didn’t look like Jason anymore. It had her mom’s skin stuck on its misshapen body — her scalped brown hair hanging limply from its head. Something broke inside Maisy and she started howling with abject horror.
And then thing-that-was-not-Stella rasped “Hey Maisy. Come kiss your mommy goodnight.”
The house stood stoically in the dark. The roof was chipping; the windows needed a fresh coat of paint and the cracks in the foundation were starting to extend their tendrils onto the main walls. But none of that could take away from the stately architecture and the aura that surrounded the house. This was a house that still stood upright, relatively immune to many a winter and weather. It remained unfazed, even by the horrors that thrived inside. As the echoes of the screaming died away in the gusty wind, the house settled for the night, hungry and hate-filled.
Inside, on the upper level, Maisy took a stumbling step backward. The thing-that-was-not-Stella stared at her, with cunning, evil eyes. She could have sworn it looked amused. Her mind still ringing with fear, she blindly reached for the doorknob behind her. Opening the door she staggered into the hallway. The stairs! She must get downstairs!Outside, the wind rose to a howling shriek. This was unusual weather for this time of the year. Dripping with icy perspiration, Maisy rushed to the stairs. A sound from Stella’s bedroom made her look up. It was standing there, in the doorway, smiling at her, lips torn and stretched over its once beautiful face. “Now Maisy, don’t be a bad girl. Come to Mommy”. Maisy whimpered and flew down the steps.
She was almost halfway down when she lost her footing and missed a step. And then two! Yelping with pain, she tumbled down the rest, her arms and legs taking the brunt of the fall. She landed in a trembling heap at the bottom, and for a moment she couldn’t breathe. She glanced up and saw nothing; heard nothing. For a long second, she thought that maybe she had imagined the whole thing. Maybe her mother was sleeping soundly in her bed, and the whole world was fine and dandy.
And then she saw it. The heinous thing was creeping down the staircase wall — in quick, cunning movements, like a large millipede. Even in the darkness of the night, she could see the malice in its yellow eyes. It landed on the floor with a soft thump and scurried towards her. Maisy turned around to run when it reached out a bony arm and caught her foot. “Ok, fun’s over girl!” it hissed. “I’ve waited long enough.”
Maisy tried to kick it off, but the creature had a vice-like grip. “So, this is how I die,” she thought and grabbed the old lamp next to her. Some primal instinct made her lift the lamp and club the hideous arm pulling at her ankle. THUNK! THUNK! THUNK! THUNK! She kept hitting it with all the force she could muster. And finally, when she felt the grasp loosen, she threw the lamp away with a repulsed scream, and ran down the long corridor to the kitchen, a severed hand still attached to her ankle. Behind her, the creature snarled and shrieked. Abandoning all pretence at humanity, it surrendered to its base form and scuttled after her.
Quick! Kitchen or basement? Kitchen or basement?
Door! The basement had a door.
She changed direction and rushed past the kitchen. The basement was just around the corner. She felt talons nip at her back. The creature was crawling on the walls, its one remaining arm outstretched. She reached the basement; to her relief, the door was open, and she dived in. She shut and locked the door behind her, all in one fluid movement.
A second later, she heard a large thump on the door. She leaned back and wept.
A low snarl reached her ears. “I am going to eat you slowly. Finger by finger. Nail by nail. And when I’m fini —”
Something immense and cold tugged at her core. She felt herself get carried and then placed gently on a surface. She peered around, disoriented. Every inch of her vision was filled with a blinding white light, but surprisingly she didn’t need to shield her eyes. She sensed movement around her. Vague, murky shapes floated just outside her line of sight. She felt a huge wave of peace and joy engulf her. “Am I dead? Is this heaven?”
She stood up, and felt something nudge and pull at her arms. Curious, she looked down at her hands. Except, she had none! Bright, beautiful orbs glowed where her palms should be. She didn’t feel fear at this discovery, just a sort of childlike wonder. As she stared at the orbs, the light in them grew hotter and brighter, radiating all the way from her arms to her heart. She gasped for breath, and her whole body seized forward.
She opened her eyes in the dimly-lit basement. Outside, the wind was roaring, thunderous and mighty.
She looked down at her hands in awe. Tender, little girl hands. She looked at the mangled fingers still grasping her ankle. She heard the near cyclonic wind outside, and the growling from outside her basement door.
Then Maisy giggled, because she finally understood.
Then Maisy giggled, because she finally understood.
Miles and oceans away from Maisy’s house, there was a forest, in a forgotten part of a little country. There was nothing special about this forest. It housed the usual variety of birds and animals. Nothing special at all. But, if you happened to walk to the exact center of it, you would see a mossy clearing enclosed by some old, gnarly trees. This clearing was entirely devoid of any fauna. Sounds were muted, and the air was stiller there, almost as if waiting in anticipation. Peer closely, very closely, and you would see a break in the mossy floor. More like a crevice really — easy to overlook and completely inconspicuous. Just the way it was meant to be.
Maisy inhaled the dank basement air. Stella had talked about getting an early start on spring cleaning. The sudden memory of her mother made her eyes well up. Her beautiful, sad, lonely mommy. She wept a few tears, the last she ever would. She knew she wouldn’t get a chance to grieve again, because she remembered everything now.
Outside the basement, the creature wearing Stella’s skin paced in ugly circles. It snarled and hissed, flecks of blood flying from its macerated lips. This was the first time it had met with any sort of resistance from a human. Most people simply rolled over in terror and gave up when they saw it. Over the multitude of centuries, it had survived and thrived by preying on humans. In some dark parts of the world, some cultures had even offered human sacrifices to appease it. Those were good times. The braver ones usually tried to bargain for their lives, and on such occasions, a broken laugh would escape its mouth. Foolish men thinking they could go up against an adversary so ancient and powerful.
And now this little girl was testing its patience. As a line of bloody spittle trailed from its mouth, it lurched suddenly and hit the basement door. A bone cracked audibly in its right shoulder. The basement door did not budge.
Maisy stood up from her cold perch at the top of the basement stairs. She wiped her eyes and paused, wistful. And then she opened the door.
It was dark. The howling wind outside had died down, completely. There was no sound except her steady breathing, and the ragged breath of the creature crouching in front of her.
“Maisy,” it sneered. “What’s the matter, honey? Why did you run?” Maisy stared at it for almost a whole minute. She could see much better, even in the inky blackness of the kitchen. She then stepped forward and spoke its true name — a name that had terrified generations of mankind before they evolved and moved on to newer fears. But this name had stuck in the backs of their minds, heavy and cold. Ehmpusaa.
Shocked, more than anything, it cocked its head and stared. For the first time in over thirty centuries, the creature felt fear.
Maisy whispered, “I’ve been searching for you for so long. Too long.”
Silence. Then it hissed, “I am going to kill you now. Just like I killed your brother and mother.”
At the mention of Stella, Maisy wavered. “She was a good woman, you know. She took me in and raised me like her own. Even when Jason was born, she never pushed me aside. Love like that is rare.” And then she said, “You shouldn’t have killed her. Or Jason. Stop this now. Nobody else has to die.”
Two yellow, hate-filled eyes looked back at her, cautious, but confident.
Maisy smiled patiently. “How do you think I found you? You’ve been evading me for centuries. I’ve scoured every corner of the earth. And then it struck me. You’re growing older, lazier. No, now you make the humans come to you. How many have you killed in this house?”
The creature shifted backward and growled. “Game’s over, you little runt! Oh, I’m going to take my time with you. Flay your skin inch by inch.”
“Just like you’ve killed all those people?”
The creature snarled, an ugly sound coming deep from its core. Stella’s hair still hung from its head, matted and moist. Then it got quiet and dropped down on all fours, nostrils flared, and its talons gripped the old kitchen floor, ready to pounce.
Maisy took two steps back and looked down at her hands. She thought of Stella and Jason. And Harvey. And Angela. And Mary. And Ruth. And Tobias. And all the countless people ripped alive by the abomination in front of her. Her small shoulders heaved with silent emotion. Grief for all the lives lost. Sorrow for the centuries spent hunting this beast. The different forms she had to endure, just to have the creature escape from her every time.
“How will you kill me?” she asked quietly.
The creature bared its fangs and leaped at her with astonishing speed. Maisy opened her hands. Her arms extended as if in embrace.
“How will you kill me? When I’m not even human,” she asked, softly.
And then the girl-that-wasn’t-Maisy exploded into a large, white light extending to every corner of the whole house. The creature shrieked in terror, in mid-leap, but it was too late. The blinding white light grew teeth and claws and spines. It moved and swayed until it tore at the creature and engulfed it whole. Black, putrid smoke oozed, hot and ugly. And then nothing. The light shimmered for a few quiet moments. Then with an audible pop, it folded into itself and contracted, getting smaller and smaller. Until all there was left was a faint blur of a girl that had stood there. And then even that wafted away as the whole house gave an almighty rumble and collapsed.
Miles, oceans away from the house that no longer existed, there was a small forest, in a forgotten part of a little country. At the center of the forest was a mossy clearing, closed in by old, gnarly trees. The clearing was entirely devoid of any fauna. Well, except for a little girl. She shimmered at the edge of a crevice and peered into it. She said a wordless prayer, for her human mother and her human brother, both casualties of a centuries-long war. Looking around one last time, she slipped into the crack, leaving only a small, fragrant breeze in her wake.
Moments later, a leaf carried by the breeze landed on the crevice. A curious squirrel, awake for spring, scampered into the clearing. It cocked its head and peered at the center. Peered really close! The mossy earth was flat and lush, damp with young blades of grass. There were no cracks or crevices, just a quiet piece of unbroken forest, waiting for the first beams of sunshine. Easy to overlook, and completely inconspicuous. Just the way it was meant to be.
Pavi Raman has written over a hundred short stories and personal essays, as well as published pieces on Parenting, Mental Health, Special Needs, and Women’s Empowerment. Her articles have been featured on Scary Mommy, Women’s Web, Momspresso, First Mom’s Club, and The Mighty. She and her husband are raising two kids in California.