The Nail

January 11, 2014 at 12:00 AM

The estimated reading time for this post is 5 minutes, 38 seconds

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“Time for sleep; the Nail is near.

“But good children needn’t fear.

“Close the left eye, then the right.

“Now it’s time to say good night.”

Until I was nine, I didn’t really think about it. Or if I thought about it at all, I thought it was just a normal lullaby that mothers all over the country sang to their kids. It wasn’t till much later that I actually asked around about it and found out that nobody else had heard of it.

Every night, as I lay down to sleep, my mother would sing me that same lullaby. And every night, I would follow along with the words. I would close my left eye when the song said to, and I would close my right eye afterward, and then with both my eyes closed I would try to fall asleep.

It wasn’t till I was nine that I decided to close my eyes the other way around.

I don’t think I really expected anything to happen. I think it was just a streak of rebellion, or what passed for rebellion for a nine-year-old. I didn’t do it while my mother was singing the lullaby; I didn’t want her asking what I was doing. So I went ahead and closed my left eye, then my right, just like the song said. But after my mother left the room, I opened my eyes again. And this time I closed my right eye…

And I immediately opened it again. I had seen something. Someone. In the dim light through my bedroom window, I’d caught a glimpse of something the size and roughly the shape of a man, standing in the far corner of my room. And I thought, just before I opened my right eye again, it had turned toward me.

I still remember the thoughts that raced through my head. I wasn’t sure I’d really seen anything. Maybe it was my imagination. But what if it wasn’t? What if there was something there, that I could only see with my right eye closed? But I’d never seen it before; it had never bothered me. Maybe it was harmless. But what if it wasn’t?

Dreading what I might see, but dreading more what I might not be seeing, I closed my right eye again.

It wasn’t in the far corner anymore. It was looming right over my bed. And in what little light there was, it looked like it was holding a knife over my chest.

As the knife came down, I squirmed out of my bed and onto the floor. I heard the soft susurrus of the blade cutting through the sheets. I kept my right eye closed, and kept my left eye on the figure. It had moved when I wasn’t looking at it—even if it hadn’t bothered me before, apparently now that I’d seen it once, it was coming after me whether I could see it or not.

It stood again and slowly turned in my direction as I made my way to the door. As it lurched toward me, I turned on the light, and I got a better look at him.

I say “him” because that’s how I thought of it at the time, but looking back I’m not at all sure the thing was actually male. Not that I’m sure it was female, either. Its face and its build were both androgynous; it could have been either, or maybe neither. I guess it’s just for a young boy, male is the default gender; everything living is “he” until proven otherwise. I wonder if girls think the same way… if I were a girl, would I have thought of it as “she”? Anyway, whether it was male, female, both, or neither, the figure looked more or less human, but there was just enough wrong with it to mark it out as something else. I can’t say everything that was off about it. Some of it I couldn’t really put my finger on; the proportions were just a bit different from they should have been, and there were some other subtle incongruities I couldn’t pinpoint. And of course, under the circumstances, I was more focused on getting away from the thing than on studying its appearance. But even so, there were three features that stood out.

It had just one eye, bright blue and wide open. Not in the center of its forehead like a cyclops, but just where the left eye would be on a regular human. Where the right eye should have been wasn’t a hole, or a patch; there was just unbroken skin, like an eye had never been there, like an eye didn’t belong there.

That wasn’t even the weirdest thing. I think the weirdest thing was its mouth. It was smiling, its lips wide open, but there was no opening between those lips, and there weren’t actual teeth, either. What was there looked like just a flat plate of bone or ceramic, with the outlines of teeth painted on to it.

That was the weirdest thing, but not the most frightening. What scared me most was its claw. Singular. What I had thought was a knife in the dim lighting from the window wasn’t a knife after all. Most of its fingers were more or less normal, maybe a little bony, the fingernails maybe a little longer than they should have been, but nothing inhuman. The index finger on its right hand, though, was grotesquely oversized, and half its length was a gigantic, huge talon.

For a second I was too terrified to move; I just stood there petrified as the thing stalked silently toward me, holding its talon out ready to plunge it into me. I still had my right eye closed; as scared as I was of the sight of this thing, I was more scared of its being there when I couldn’t see it. Finally, as it lunged at me, its claw descending toward my chest, I dodged to the side and ran for the door.

I didn’t look back. I just wanted to get away. I ran down the hall to my parents’ room, opened the door without knocking, and threw myself onto their bed.

“I saw him,” I sobbed. “I saw the Nail.”

My mother had been asleep, I think, but she’d woken when I wrapped my arms around her. “The Nail?” she said, sleepily.

“The Nail. From the song. I closed my right eye first, and I saw the Nail.”

I’d opened both my eyes in my flight, but now I closed my right eye again and looked at the door. There was nothing there. I looked all around the room, but the figure was gone.

“Honey, it’s just a song,” my mother told me. “It’s just a song.”

But there was something in her voice that struck me as unconvincing, and I wasn’t sure I believed her. I still don’t. Anyway, as much as she tried to assure me I had nothing to worry about, she didn’t object to my sleeping in their room from then until we moved out of that house… which we did, only a few months later.

In the time since then, I’ve thought of plenty of questions about what I saw that night. If the Nail was real (if that’s what I saw), and my mother knew about it, why had we stayed in that house for so long? Why hadn’t we moved before I saw it? For that matter, why hadn’t I seen it before? Of course I followed the instructions of the lullaby when I went to bed, but could it really be that I’d never closed my right eye at any other time? Did the Nail only show up at night? Or could it be that I was so habituated by the lullaby to closing my left eye first that I always unconsciously did that, and I’d really never closed just my right eye before?

Anyway, though there’s a lot I still wonder about it, nobody else seems to have heard that lullaby, so I guess the Nail, if that’s what it was that I saw, probably must have been confined to that house. Even so, there’s enough I don’t understand that since I was nine years old, I’ve never, never closed my right eye without the left. Not when I go to bed, and not at any other time. Just in case.

Credit To – Immutatus