Estimated reading time — 6 minutes
It was probably nothing, he thought, suppressing a shiver of fear; just next doors cat jumping down from the bureau, or the broom falling over in the kitchen. After all, everybody knows that in the dead of night, even the smallest sound pierces the veil of silence and encroaching dreams like the report of a gunshot. Even better, it had just been the house settling. That was something his mother often said, and for a few seconds it went some way to quelling his current trepidation: if she’d told him that then surely it must be true. His mother wouldn’t-
-there it was again. It couldn’t possibly have been his imagination this time, not now that he was wide awake, and it was most definitely not the ‘house settling’. Cold, mind-numbing terror seeped into every bone of his body and the marrow in his bones turned to ice as the realization hit home; there was something in Nate Griffin’s closet.
Was that a faint scratching now; the sound of curled, yellowing fingernails dragging themselves softly across the panels of white, varnished wood? A twisted pincer scraping the wall as it gently eased the door open?
Pulling himself into the foetal position beneath the warmth and safety of his duvet, he held his breath and waited with wide eyes and baited breath, heart beating a frantic tattoo against his ribcage, for something to break the silence.
A low rasping sound coming from that small walk-in closet; shallow panting broken intermittently by a heavy wet slapping- a forked tongue running itself across decaying lips perhaps? The pulsating suckers of some thick, slime covered tentacle dislodging themselves as their owner moved stealthily towards him? His heart felt like it could burst forth from his chest at any moment; like the monster in that Ridley Scott flick he’d seen last Thursday. Tears had begun to wet his cheeks as he tried to push the thought of whatever lurked back there in the darkness out of his head.
It was no good, whenever the terrified nine-year-old conjured an image in his mind it seemed to hold for no more than a few seconds before melting and reforming into those slatted lacquered doors; one of them stands slightly ajar and two red orbs smoulder in the shadows, burning like dying coals in the Stygian darkness.
The closet door creaked open, the sound seeming endless in the stillness of the night. What possessed Nate to do what he did next, I doubt if even he could say. In an act of unbridled courage he threw back the covers and sat bolt upright, staring fixedly at the yawning black void behind the doors, both of which stood wide open, a beam of moonlight filtering through the window pooling upon the floor in front of them, managing to illuminate the doorway and the foot of his bed, but little else.
For several seconds he could make out nothing whatsoever and his heart fluttered wildly in his chest, the fickle flames of relief beginning to spark and kindle somewhere deep within him. It HAD all been his imagination, there was nothing back there in the closet except for his clothes, the petrol-fuelled remote-control car he’d gotten for his birthday and a couple of baseball bats. Maybe there were even a few comic books laying around down there; he’d check in the morning to see if there were any he hadn’t read in a while.
And of course, the doors had swung open because his father hadn’t gotten around to fixing the loose catch that held them closed. Now dreams of sweet little Lucy Shepherd beckoned- two beautiful emeralds brimming with warmth staring up at him, golden pigtails sparkling in the late-summer sun. Realising he had subconsciously been holding his breath in anticipation, Nate let it out in a deep sigh of relief, still staring intently at the open closet, which seemed much less terrifying now that it was bathed in the warm glow of rational thought.
Nate felt his bladder let go as the gaunt black shape stepped out of the yawning abyss and into the pallid glow of the moon.
For a few seconds it seemed to be made completely of darkness; he quickly realised that the thing was wearing a monk-like black robe that swathed it in a veritable sea of inky cloth. Its left hand reached out from beneath these tumultuous folds to grasp the door frame; a twisted claw with fingers like gnarled branches- each of them ending in a ragged nail the colour of curdled milk that curled back on itself innumerable times.
Its right arm hung limply at its side, appearing at first to end in a strange malformed stump that extended downwards out of a voluminous sleeve. Only when his bleary eyes were fully focused on processing what he was seeing, did Nate realise that what he had initially taken for a stump or a disfigured limb had in actual fact been neither: the right sleeve had been torn away just below the elbow; it was the chitinous, segmented leg of a large spider that protruded from the robe- a many sectioned limb that ended in a malicious looking point, it twitched evilly in the pale light of the moon, making his skin break out in goosebumps and his breath catch in his throat. He had watched a program with his father a few weeks ago about Australian wildlife, and that hideous appendage would not have looked out of place had it been attached to the bulbous body of a jet-black funnel-web spider. Instead, it was a part of the hideous night-gaunt that had emerged from the depths of his closet.
Until now the things head had hung solemnly downwards, and as if responding to some unheard signal it lifted it to look directly at him. Imagining two glowing red eyes had been almost the furthest thing from the truth; these were milky white and bulged like the caps of some hideous mushroom, with small yellow specks swirling placidly across their engorged surface. There were at least twelve of them, spread across what he presumed must be the things face, enshrouded somewhere beneath the darkness of its hood, and they were distributed in clusters of three and four. They reminded him of Mr Armstrong, the old blind clerk that worked down at the pharmacy. Nate had once seen him without the dark glasses that he otherwise wore constantly; his eyes had been glazed orbs of ivory, appearing to see all yet in actuality seeing nothing as they searched listlessly back and forth behind the counter. But Nate knew with gut-wrenching certainty that these seemingly blind eyes saw him all too clearly.
The things nose was little more than a vestigial slit, below which he could make out the barest suggestion of a mouth, the lower plate distended in a disgusting manner, and rows of glistening, pointed teeth that stared out at him eagerly in unrestrained anticipation. Its tongue lolled out and Nate made a small sound that would perhaps have been a scream had it not died in his throat almost immediately. Unnaturally long, the things tongue stretched out to almost a foot before being snapped back. But in those brief seconds, Nate saw all he needed to; numerous eyes, both blinking and lidless, dotted its surface, some large and some small, all rolling madly in the throes of dementia and insanity.
Suddenly it was standing at the foot of his bed, as if it had moved silently and with obscene speed in less time than it would take to blink- and maybe it had. The thick, oppressive odour that seemed to roll from the thing in waves was enough to make him retch, although his brain had now lapsed into such a state of terror that it was incapable of inducing even such rudimentary functions; a disgusting amalgamation of rotted flesh and disused furniture grown stagnant with mould and damp in some long forgotten cellar. There was something else, layered beneath those scents, that took a fraction of a second longer to place: the pleasant smell of warm rain falling gently on a summers eve.
Moving slowly and with careful deliberation the claw-hand reached for his ankle before stopping, fully outstretched, the pallid cadaver-like flesh dull and lifeless. Nate tried to pull his legs up and away but found that they had transmuted themselves to lead, now nothing more than deadweight. The thing moved its spider-like limb back-and-forth slowly in the air, as if tasting it; scenting the heart stopping terror of a nine-year-old boy.
The thing from the closet seemed to hesitate for a moment, as if contemplating some irrecoverably difficult decision. The spider-appendage began to flail madly; convulsing hideously beneath the moons funereal gaze. Like a darting viper the claw-hand shot forwards, those ancient, rotten fingers wrapping around Nate’s ankle like a vice, cold and clammy against his bare skin- the filthy nails biting cruelly into his flesh.
The things snakelike tongue slithered from the depths of its cavernous maw, and an eye of bleeding crimson inches from the tip blinked rapidly; a purple iris undulated like smoke drifting across water; a dead black pupil stared impassively, devoid of all emotion.
The spider in the moonlight hissed venomously and darted forwards.
Nate finally managed to scream. But as hundreds of razor sharp teeth descended upon him and a coarse, bristled limb was forced down his throat, it was too little too late.
Beneath a frozen moon an aeons old cycle continued, and Kalhuzacan fed once more.
Credit: Tom Farr
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