Estimated reading time — 16 minutes
I remember it clear as day, as if it happened yesterday, even though it was almost eleven years ago. I didn’t have the best of childhoods, if we’re being totally honest. However, it was anything but uneventful. This all began on a Friday, on a day where there was no school. Might have been due to an inbound hurricane that Miami was known to be plagued by or just because the superintendent of my school at the time felt like canceling, or a holiday. Any way you slice it, though, it is irrelevant.
I was at home playing Super Smash Bros Melee on my gamecube with my brother, Phillip. I was eleven soon to be twelve, and he was seven, soon to be eight. We did almost everything together, not to come off that we always got along though. We fought a lot, as brothers do. On this particular day, however, my brother and I hadn’t been fighting. In fact, we hadn’t had a big fight in nearly a week. We were eager to stay joined, even nosing our way into each other’s business to stay involved.
About 4:30 pm rolls around, and I decide I want to take a break from the game to get some lemonade. I walk down the short hall and cut left down the next short hallway leading to the family room/dining room, and then went into the kitchen. My father and my step-mother also hadn’t been fighting either. Strange, considering I’m hard pressed to think of moments when they weren’t. Anyway, I happened to look over at the giant, dinosaur of a tv to notice they were watching a movie I had never heard of.
“Hey!” my father yells. I look back at him, startled. “You don’t wanna watch this,” he said. “It’s too scary for you.”
I heeded my father’s command, poured my lemonade quickly and left the kitchen. But my curiosity had been aroused. I had to see what he was so concerned with me seeing. I returned to their room (where my gamecube was set up on a smaller tv) and my brother had asked why our father yelled at me when I went in. I told him that they were watching something scary in the kitchen. We both agreed we should prove ourselves brave in our father’s eyes by watching any amount of that movie that we could.
Of course we went back to our game, but we carefully watched the clock, waiting for 6 pm, when our father would start cooking dinner for us before we left for our church group activities. When he called us into the kitchen, we could catch at least the very end of the movie (which we had deduced would naturally be the scariest part) and shrug it off as “just a movie.” The anticipation made my pulse race, like the anticipation of waiting for Christmas, but different. Dad was gonna be so proud of us, I thought.
Six o’clock finally crept upon us. Like clockwork, our father called us into the kitchen. We shot through the house, desperately hoping we could at least catch the last ten minutes of the movie. We piled onto the couch while my father stirred Kraft Macaroni and Cheese noodles in the boiling pot. This was it, the moment we had waited for. And I remember regretting almost immediately sitting in front of the tv after what we witnessed.
The movie was Jeepers Creepers. We came in at the police station scene where the monster (which is a Wendigo for those who ever wondered about it) pops out and spidermans his way toward the main characters. I remember seeing it, and thinking “What in the hell is that??” I wanted to close my eyes, but I couldn’t look away as the monster revealed its wicked strength, bizarre form and terrible roar. I looked at my brother for a moment. He was horrified; I was too. But as soon as the movie ended, we shaped up.
Our father set our full plates on the little table in the kitchen, completely unaware that my brother and I had watched the last portion of the movie. We were silent, but traded smiles and short giggles, as if to mask that it had terrified us. I remember trying to lord over my friends in my church group the fact that I had watched ‘the scariest movie ever’ – which in all respects is still true in my opinion – stating that none of them would have been able to handle it. One friend specifically, the Pastor’s son, Dalton, replied with “Yeah, you’re probably right.”
As night came on and the safety of the light receded, the thrill of what I had achieved began to wane, and the reality of my fear began to sink in. I thought, strangely enough, that by that point, especially after having been to a church meeting and having a lesson from the Pastor about God protecting believers, that fear would have been scrubbed clean. But it wasn’t.
So what did I do to deal with the unshakeable terror that infested my little heart? I stayed up until midnight playing Sonic Adventure 2: Battle to distract myself from the images that played themselves over and over again in my head of that horrible monster. In the past when something had scared me, this method worked, diverting my focus towards something that did not frighten me, something I had power over. And I did have power in this game. I was actually very good.
Finally midnight rolled around, and I was tired enough to go to sleep. I suspected I would have a nightmare, cry when I woke up, and that would be the end of it. But nothing could have possibly prepared me for what happened next.
As aforementioned, my parents’ room opened into a short hallway, which had their room on one side. My room was on the other side. And something was in the middle. Clinging to the wall in a squatting position was a figure unlike anything I had ever seen before, or since. It was monstrously large, large enough to easily injure or kill a child of my stature, and threaten anyone in my whole family. I could only discern certain features it possessed through the darkness in the hall, darkness that it seemed to emit. Sharp claws on the ends of its toes and fingers. Folded wings like a gargoyle’s rested on its back. Strands of curly gossamer hair seemed to be the only soft part of this manifestation before me. Yet most of it seemed to be shrouded in its own darkness.
If I was terrified before this apparition made itself visible to me, then there is no word to describe the fear that overcame my very soul that night. My voice was stolen out of my throat. I wanted to scream, call for help, something! But my instincts begged me to reconsider, as if doing so would antagonize this interloper. My breath was sucked into my chest. My hand clutched the doorknob with such strength as to force my fingers to shake. My eyes streamed silent, hot tears.
Somehow I managed to break the deadlock and close the door, slowly, as if it somehow wouldn’t notice. I still remained mostly paralyzed, though. I staggered back to the space between the wall where my tv and gamecube were set up and laid down on my left side. I wanted to pray, but even the voice in my head was stolen from me. I clutched my arms and curled up, hoping the morning light would come and chase away the nightmare that sat in my hallway. But for the moment, with the door closed, I was safe.
To my horror, I saw the white door swing smoothly open, like someone had pushed it open politely to come in. The hot tears I felt before returned, streaming with even greater intensity, burning my face. I covered my mouth with both hands, slammed my eyes shut and trembled there in the dark until exhaustion took my consciousness from me. But even my sleep could not save me.
It pursued me into the depths of my dream, in a way I would come to expect in the future. I was running for my life, past people who looked at me with confusion. I would hear voices say “What’s the matter?” or “Are you afraid?” or “Can I help you?” I could never reach out to these people. I could never muster my voice. Only run. From the nightmare. And as I ran, it killed, slaughtered, destroyed, massacred anything that stood between it and myself.
When in my dream I ran into soldiers preparing to fight it, I knew they were doomed. No weapons they could bring against this monster would even slow it down, only make it angry. And so I abandoned the haven they attempted to make for me, only to find myself alone. It caught me, and I stared up into its face, not long enough to get a good look, before it devoured me.
I woke with a jolt. I was alive. I was alive? The dream felt so real, the fear still paralyzed me. I couldn’t speak either. I remember awkwardly trying to move, and not being able to speak. I was in that condition for several more days. When I finally came out of it, my family had asked what was the matter. I didn’t answer them. They wouldn’t believe me. How could they? They would only sit there and tell me why what I saw wasn’t real and there was nothing to be afraid of. But there was. I had already seen it for myself.
I shouldered this for some time, alone. This horrible being of darkness loomed over me, everywhere I went. It took up residence in the corner of my room opposite my bed, to glare at me in my sleep. Often times it pursued me in my dreams, ripening the fear as often as it could. I became victim to a demon I was entirely powerless to stop.
Two years later, a friend suggested, when I confided in her the truth of my plight, to call on the name of the Lord in its presence and demand that it leave. From what I had learned and what I had been taught, I knew that ought to work. Demons aren’t more powerful than God, I thought, and she reassured me it would work. The thing I didn’t take into account is that demons are more powerful than people.
That night, I did just as she said. I waited in my room until I felt its presence. When I turned and saw it towering over me in the corner, I began to whisper “In the name of Jesus Christ, I compel you to be gone!” I repeated that over and over and over, progressively getting louder and louder as I would say it, only stopping before I came to a shouting point. I could see that it was still there, but my confidence had built. For that night, at least, I was unafraid – until that nightmare occurred.
It wasn’t long before I started high school, a brand new chapter in my life. The chapter where I would take my first steps into manhood, or so I thought at the time. And it was then that I began trying to rationalize away the demon that haunted me every night. Because compelling to leave in the name of Jesus failed to remove it from my room, my house, and my life, it must not actually be a demon. Perhaps it was more of a projection, a mentally instilled image of the thing that most terrified me in my young life that I needed to adjust to. Over a very short period of time, it became easy to believe that. But the story does not end here, with this ‘revelation’.
One night, early in my freshman year of high school, something peculiar happened. The demon was not in my room manning his typical post. I sat up, later than normal that night, as if awaiting its return. Mostly out of fear that it would try to get the jump on me in reality as opposed to my dreams. But the night crept along and it was nowhere to be seen. Was it gone? Had I done it by acknowledging it as nothing more than a projection of my over-active imagination generating an image of fear? To quote the Arbiter from Halo 3: “Were it so easy.”
I was woken from my sleep that night in a way I will never forget. A blood-curdling scream blasted through the entire house in the middle of the night, waking everyone up. My stepmother and sister were the first to respond as the screaming continued. They rushed over to the source of the screaming: my brother, in his room adjacent mine, screamed as if some horrible thing was attacking him.
I saw the light from his room pour into the hallway and under the crack of my door. My sister and stepmother tried desperately to calm him down, but he was shaking with fear, screaming about being covered in human-hand sized spiders that had crawled all over him. A nightmare, must have been. But a dark premonition lingered in my mind as to what may have caused this. My brother batted away any notion that it was a dream. “The spiders were real!” he insisted. “They came from the man in black with red eyes!” My sister told me the next morning that his whole arm shook as he pointed at his curtain. My brother said he was standing in the curtains and laughing.
From that night on, in any hours of darkness, my brother would always scan the dark, in search of that figure with beaming red eyes. My sister did as I expected she would do with me had I confided in her: “It’s only your imagination. It was just a dream. Shhh.” I never said a word. I wished that I could. I wanted so badly to tell my brother that he wasn’t alone, that he wasn’t crazy, but I wouldn’t have that chance for years to come.
One night, something happened that had never happened before. It was at my grandmother’s house. I was fifteen, he was eleven. We chose to stay for a weekend because my cousins were in town. The thought crossed my mind to tell my cousin Travis, the oldest of the grandkids, but what would that accomplish? My brother woke us all up trembling and crying. He crawled up into the three-seat couch that Travis and I were attempting to share and nuzzled in between us. After being woken like that, my cousin was prompted to ask what was wrong?
“He’s here…” my brother worked out. “The man with red eyes. He’s outside, staring at me!” His voice was no higher than a whisper. “He has a knife!”
I looked out the glass door that fed into the back porch with a brick floor lined with a screen wall. And just outside of it was a figure shrouded in shadows, peering in from the darkness with piercing eyes: a shade of red that I couldn’t compare to anything but hell itself. In the four years this demon had haunted me, it followed me everywhere I went. Be it to a friend’s house, a family member’s, or even out of state to my mother’s. This was nothing new. But never before, and never again, have I seen such eyes as could strip away all courage and resolve to believe I was anything but powerless and afraid. And never before had I seen it the same time as my brother.
I remember one night, when I was sixteen, growing fed up with this stupid fear that seemed to only exist in the dark in the place where one should feel safest, but where I felt the most endangered. But enough was enough, I thought to myself. “I’m sixteen dammit, and I’m not going to be bothered by some stupid fear I had when I was a little kid!” I shot up out of my bed, the only real courage I felt through this experience. Though I had said it was only a stupid fear, I still knew that it was a very real stupid fear. I stared back at it through the dark, searching for the eyes I knew to be red.
After not seeing its eyes open, I hopped off my bed, landing like a cat, as if I was still afraid of provoking it. It remained in its place, motionless. I walked towards it, slowly, half expecting it to vanish the closer I got, proving once and for all that it was a figment of my imagination, or for it to attack me as it attacked my brother, proving once and for all that it was a real demon feeding on my soul. The only sound breaking the suffocating silence was my pounding heart that compelled me to reconsider my present course of action. The other was my stifled breath, heavy from fear and the rapid beat of my heart.
At last I stood before it, this giant thing that haunted me every moment of every night for the past four years encroaching five. It was broad, probably as wide as two of me. It exuded not just darkness, but power. I could feel tremendous pressure surrounding me, pressing down, as if to force me to my knees. But I wouldn’t let myself fall. I stretched out trembling fingers from a shaky hand and reached my hand forward. ‘I’ll pass my hand through it, and it’ll disappear. Then I’ll be rid of it!’ I assured myself this plan would work. One can’t touch a figment of his own imagination in reality, it would simply vanish and reality would set in. And reality certainly did set in.
My hand disappeared into shadow, for a moment, as I swiped it through this dark figure. It emerged, as, logically, it should. But the shadowy figure remained. This demon would not be chased away so easily. And then I knew, this was no figment. It wasn’t the boogie man. It wasn’t some nightmare from years ago that came around every so often. It was real. And as I stepped back away from it, I felt it pushing down on me, not with its body, but with that very pressure I felt when I stood before it. It continued growing stronger and stronger until I leaped across the room and landed in my bed. I still didn’t feel safe. I had angered it. Or made it laugh. I don’t really know honestly.
A lot of things would start changing, for the better it seemed, that year. My mother was moving to Georgia with my stepfather out of Ft. Walton Beach, a place where the demon made it a habit to fly over the trees above my head and briefly eclipse the moon when I would walk home from the neighbor’s as a new way of creating fresh fear. They had invited me to come up and stay with them in this hotel for two weeks while they sorted out moving into the new house.
The demon had followed me there as well, as it always did, and as I had come to believe it always would. Its presence became so familiar, I was even aware of it during the day. It had become apparent to me that it never truly left me alone. It only became less visible. I had come to believe that fear would be a constant in my life. A fear of this thing, that it was real, that it would chase me in the shadows, that it would invade the sanctuary of my mind in my dreams and warp it all into a frightening illusion too close to reality to tell the difference.
But one night in that hotel, the biggest change of all happened.
I went to sleep, completely aware that the demon was watching me from the far corner of the hotel room opposite my parents’ bed. I knew that it knew my fear had waned once again. I knew a nightmare would be coming, even in my dream I knew.
In that dream, it was the night of a full moon. I was surrounded by my closest friends, all attempting to enjoy themselves and each other’s company with a late night swim at a watering hole they found in the woods, conveniently by a road. I knew what was going to happen, so I knew I needed to keep watch. It was coming, for all of us. We would have to run.
A swift shadow passed over us, created by the light of the moon. I knew it wasn’t some bird. I called out to my friends to run as fast as they could to the vehicles we had with us: a black truck, a yellow punch-buggy and a white sedan. My best friend at the time, Jean, and I took the punch-buggy (I don’t know how or why that happened, we got tricked somehow). But before we could follow the others down the road, it was there, cutting us off. It stood menacingly, flashing those red eyes that burned brighter than the high-beams of the car. “Ram it!” I said to Jean.
He punched the gas. The tires screamed and the little car shot forward. Much to Jean’s surprise, it leaped into the air and ran over the top of the car, just like in the movie Jeepers Creepers. It was attempting to recreate the initial fright that started it all I figured. But instead of staying to try again, I urged Jean to keep going. Keep running. I knew from previous nightmares that there was no fighting this thing.
We hadn’t gone for more than five minutes before we came upon the wreckage of the other vehicles. They were completely torn apart, my friends still alive inside, but barely. Jean and I frantically hauled them out and took to our feet as fast as we could. Suddenly, the ground shook ferociously. Three walls shot up all around us, blocking us in, with only one way out. And when we turned around, there it was, standing at the far end, waiting to kill us all.
I looked at my friend; he was afraid. I turned my head over my shoulder to see my other friends, hurt, and equally as afraid. And I looked forward again at the demon that thirsted for our blood. I wanted so bad to protect my friends, to save them from the gruesome fate this wicked demon had in store for them. My hands balled into fists and I started walking, straight towards it, with everything in me urging me to run away, to find a way out.
It trudged towards me. I could feel its pressure pounding away at my spirit, sapping my courage every moment that we drew closer to one another. Until at last we stood, face to face. I trembled, just as I did the last time I had faced it this way. It was so powerful, I thought I would collapse and die there, but I didn’t. Fearing I didn’t have much time left, and desiring to save my friends, I looked up into its face and said these two words: “Get out.” My heart pounded out of my chest while I waited to see what would happen next. Would it skewer me on a spit, would it chop me into tiny pieces with its blade-edged wings, or just continue to crush me with its titanic force? I didn’t know. But I would not allow it to see that I was afraid. Not this time.
To my shock, even to this day, seven years later, it turned its back to me and walked away. The pressure subsided. My pounding heart’s pace returned to normal. I could breathe again. And for the first time in five years, I woke up without feeling totally afraid. I couldn’t feel the demon’s presence anymore. It was over. It was finally over.
Eventually I would come to tell my sister about what I had experienced, but only her. I didn’t have to tell my brother about it. He saw it too. To finally be able to tell him what I had wanted to say, that he wasn’t crazy, that I believed him every time he said he saw the man with red eyes, meant more to the both of us than we could have ever realized. After he learned that I defeated it, it wasn’t long before he stopped seeing it. The shadow had passed. We were safe again.
I still didn’t think my parents would have believed me. And I was right. They wouldn’t have. Not unless they had seen it for themselves. For years it stayed a secret between my brother and I, and my sister and I, respectively. We could trust each other, but we knew everyone else would think I was just seeing things, or that Phillip and I were just little kids with over-active imaginations. Even my sister didn’t believe it until I started explaining to her why my brother was seeing things and that the way I described what he saw matched up perfectly. All she could say was “I’m glad I never saw it!” and laugh.
I’m twenty-three now. I believed all this was behind me after my victory, and now served as a story to either motivate people that any fear can be conquered, or to be used to scare the crap out of whoever I wanted. But last fall, while up at college, I received a phone call from my stepmother. That isn’t the unusual part. What was unusual was the first thing she asked me: “Have you ever seen something in the house?” Loaded question, I thought. Sure I had seen lots of things in the house. But what specifically was she getting at. I asked, and she told me a short story of the events of the night before.
“I was laying in bed when I had to go to the bathroom. When I sat up, I saw something dark move in front of the bed and go into my bathroom. I thought it was your brother. But when I layed back down, he was asleep in the bed next to me.”
I didn’t need any more evidence to know that what I had been through and what I had seen was real. But now, at last, I could explain to her those frightening moments in our past that perplexed her to that very day. I told her how I discovered it was a demon, and it had fed off of my fear. It also latched onto Phillip and stayed there for five years. I told her everything. The nightmares, seeing it everywhere I went, even the time Phillip and I saw it together. So she investigated and she discovered something truly frightening: ours was not the only house this demon had been in. Most of the people (I want to say 20 out of 30) all said the same thing – a dark figure would enter their house and weird, unexplainable stuff would happen, things ranging from mildly scary to downright terrifying. We eventually linked it to a family – that still remains unknown – who regularly sacrifices chickens and leaves their remains by the train tracks on the opposite side of the neighborhood from where my house was. We don’t know to this day if this demon was summoned intentionally or not, but those people unleashed a powerful evil into this world that continues to lurk in the shadows of the place that I called home.