Licking the apple lip gloss off my lips isn’t enough to calm me down. I might as well down the whole bottle, puke out every last bit of brain matter I have, blackout from the exhaustion and probably wake up in a suitcase with one sock and both of my shoes missing.
Maybe then this whole nightmare will be over.
I resort to fiddling with my bracelet but all I want to do is rip it apart with my teeth. There’s a window to my right. It’s just above my head. I can’t see much out there besides a pair of legs if someone decides to walk by.
It’s a little high up but, I’m sure I can get there using a ladder or a bucket or something.
I smack myself in the face. A bucket? Really? It’s like ten feet off the ground! I smack myself harder this time but, I can’t feel anything.
To my surprise, I do spot a ladder lurking behind the elliptical trainer, or a hammerhead shark with arms, blinking at me with red eyes.
Maybe if I open the window, the delicate sounds of night will diffuse the tension thickening in the room, spreading like a disease, crawling along the walls, snaking across the floor until it’s right around my ankles and then it’s bye bye cruel world.
Oh god, what was that? I heard a noise.
Click, click, click. And a hiss?
Sounds like a broken clock. Or maybe it is a clock. Maybe Dad had installed it when I was away at school or something. I never come into the basement much, you see.
Don’t be silly, Sabina. You know what that sound was. They can’t be here already, can they? Not now. I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about it. You would as well, if you knew what they looked like.
Mind you, I haven’t taken my eyes off the window since the moment I got here. The right side of my neck is painfully strained but, I could care less. My gaze has cemented on the window like a tongue on a metal pole.
Oh, thank God. The fridge has started making noise. If not for this then, the cold silence will be the death of me. It’s the type of fridge where you have to flip up the lid to take out your ice cream and… yeah.
We mostly keep ice cream there but, it ran out so I’m waiting for Mum and Dad to get more. My favorite is cookies and cream. How can you not like it? What’s better than it? God, I wish I had a tub ice cream to devour.
That fridge is now a place for other stuff. It’s a shame, really.
I dig my hands into my scalp and tighten my grip. Enough. I can’t do this anymore. I want to get out of here, hightail it up to the giant mountains and keep going until my chest splits down the middle.
I start pacing up and down, chest heaving beyond the normal average, expelling balls of air before I explode like a pressure cooker.
Better yet, remove everything inside of me. My organs suddenly feel like foreign objects that shouldn’t be there, making me sick to my stomach.
It horrifies me to think that the only way for me to feel normal is to transform into a pouch of bloody skin.
This is too much adrenaline, much too much for me. I could put it to use elsewhere, like, testing my fate in a way that only liquid courage can.
Oh, what am I blabbering about? I’m stuck in a stone-cold basement with my teeth shattering to the point of them falling out of my mouth.
But this…this hormone pulsing through my veins, stretching against its walls, is anything but courage. It’s courage’s opposite. Fear. Fear that makes my hands shiver till they’re numb, fear that freezes time and I don’t know how much longer I can take this.
I stop, and glance towards the fridge in the dark corner. It should be warm by now, shouldn’t it? It’s usually hot at the sides.
Making my way over to the fridge like a zombie, I collapse beside it, tucked out of view and swallowed by the darkness.
Memories from the weeks prior start flooding my mind instantly. But the more vivid ones seem to haunt me the most.
It’s normal for a family to get bored, especially when they’ve spent all day in the house doing absolutely fuckall.
But it’s another story to have something done about it. That was when Dad, who you can call Jeremy, came up with the brilliant idea to take us camping.
I will skip ahead of the mundane car ride, and the struggle to find a neat spot to settle down.
Eventually, we came across a lovely portion of the woods that stood shoulder-to-shoulder with an emerald lake.
Mum and Dad were in charge of the fishing and Sean, my little brother, and I were in charge of helping as little as possible. So, we disappeared into the cold, vastness of the woods and spent the next few hours chasing each other and playing hide and seek.
That was when the ominous clicking sound began.
I still remember how I felt that day. Nowhere near as hysteric as I am now but, about a quarter of the way through.
When it was my turn to hide, I sat in a clearing, making it easier for him to find me. The last thing I wanted was for him to get lost in a place like this.
If I were to appear in front of Mum and Dad without Sean beside me, they would screw the hell out of me.
As I sat in the clearing, listening to the soothing sounds of the trees and the rippling of the lake, a strange sound gripped my senses.
It was a soft clicking noise, kind of like when the tip of your tongue touches the roof of your mouth.
It’s hard for me to explain exactly what ingredient within that noise made my blood run cold.
But I would never, ever, want you to have to listen to it. It’s not worth finding out about it, either.
Was it Sean? It couldn’t be. I had never heard him make a sound like that before and the longer I sat there, the closer it got.
I stood up cautiously and spun around. It was coming from the woods, alright, but there was something so unnatural about it. My mouth hung slightly. The silence was making it so much worse.
If only I had known what was really making that noise…
The clicking stopped abruptly, and my spine vibrated with that all too familiar feeling of someone standing right behind me. I turned around and nearly had a heart attack when I saw Sean grinning from ear to ear.
“You want to kill me, eh?” I shouted. He frowned in confusion.
“Doesn’t matter, because I got you faster than you did!” he exclaimed, grabbing hold of my shirt.
“Was that you making that sound?” I asked, my heart beating at normal pace again.
“Oh, yeah. Yeah, it was me,” he replied, crossing his arms and puffing his chest.
“Where did you learn to do that?”
Sean gulped, and for a moment, a glint of fear flashed through his face. Then, he shrugged his shoulders and said, “I made it up and it totally worked!”
Relieved to find an excuse to leave, I grabbed Sean by the wrist and swiftly exited that part of the woods, making it all the way back to our campsite.
When the blue had faded from the sky, we stuck to the old tradition of roasting marshmallows over an open fire, with Mum telling us embarrassing stories from when we were younger.
Sean kept dropping his marshmallows on the ground, and before he could attempt to pick them up again, I smacked him on the hand and gave him half of mine. After that, we turned them into the most delicious s’mores.
Dad started telling us ghost stories in a typical Dad fashion, making all the right faces and the appropriate noises in all the right parts.
I, for one, had to restrain myself from yawning every two minutes. I knew these stories were bollocks and a far cry from reality.
But Dad made it a point to note that those who had the misfortune of encountering these monsters were never seen again.
I could see that happening. Like a wind of their existence must never reach the light.
You should’ve seen Sean’s face throughout the whole ordeal. He was surely one tale away from losing control of his bladder.
His seven-year old imagination had formed a bridge between reality and fiction, allowing him to believe that these creatures did, in fact, exist.
But at that time, I had reached the brink of adolescence and to me, they were nothing but fictitious crap.
Mum attempted to comfort Sean by stroking his hair and tried to force him towards her side. But Sean broken away from her and threw his arms around me, burying his tiny head into my denim jacket.
Her face dropped just like any roasting marshmallow would and I did everything in my power to not look my mother right in the eye. I probably would’ve seen molten lava and people with scorched skins screaming bloody murder.
I’m missing the point.
When it was time to go to bed, we crawled into our sleeping bags and I fell asleep before Sean. That didn’t stop him from pinching and prodding me, whenever he had the chance?
It got to a point where I didn’t bother acknowledging his repetitive remarks about how he thought someone was watching us.
I made sure my back was towards him, and was just about to drift off when he pinched me hard near my ribs, but he caught mostly the skin than the bone. Oh, I lost it completely.
I shoved him with enough force to knock the daylights out of him. He crashed into the tent wall, rocking it about. It seemed almost comical. That one tent shaking violently while the others remain statue still.
“If you don’t stop, I’ll make you sleep outside by yourself! What’s wrong with you?” I whispered.
He gulped. Sean then pointed ahead, his pale lips quivering. It was only when I followed his gaze that I realized what was troubling him.
What greeted me were the dull flames that had once kept us warm. The tent was open.
I felt around my rucksack and began rummaging through it. Nothing had been stolen.
Knowing the answer, I asked him if Sean had done it. Maybe he had relieved himself and had forgotten to close the tent on the way in.
As expected, he shook his head, no. I knew his current state wouldn’t allow him to do such a foolish thing.
I lunged forward and zipped it shut. He began waving his hands frantically, mouthing the words, “No!” over and over again. “They’ll know we’re here!”
“What am I supposed to do? Leave it open?”
Sean hung his head in defeat. I knew how powerless he felt to the situation but, we were in danger regardless of whether that bloody thing was open or not.
The suspense was eating him alive and my feigned confidence was crumbling by the second.
With much effort, he laid back down. After I did the same, I noticed that his hand was outstretched. I gripped it tight, feeling my anger towards him fade like dandelions in the breeze.
Ten minutes had floated by without incident. The black waters rippled gently as the howling wind took hold of the night.
But my veins were overflowing with adrenaline, and I could kiss any chances of sleep goodbye.
Thankfully, Sean was as quick to fall asleep as he was to waking up and his grip on my hand grew soft and airy.
And then, my eyes shot up. A soft click, click, click, began to fill the tent.
My heart began to race. I cautiously lifted my head, and froze. The tent was opening once again. No human on earth can ever open a tent that slow. It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out how a tent works.
Going against my gut, I laid there, waiting, and waiting, and waiting, for a painful amount of time.
I suffered in silence knowing that whoever it was, was one step closer to getting me. Then, the mouth of the tent gave way.
I could tell that the fire had dissipated. My chest burned as my heart continued to race, to the point where my whole body was shaking. At least, that was what I thought was happening.
And there, in the dead of night, a dark mass loomed in the darkness. It was there, a few feet away from us. I remained stiff as a board. I almost had a heart attack when it tilted its head to one side.
To my horror, it lowered itself to the ground, crawling towards me on all fours, like a cheetah stalking its prey. It made my bones soft.
It climbed on top of me, pressing its cold body against mine. Two polar opposites.
My ribs strained against the pressure but I dared not make a sound.
The creature was close enough for me to see its orb-like eyes boring into mine. The eerie silence was no longer a threat.
After a while, my eyes adjusted well enough in the dark, to make out its face. My soul nearly left my body when I made out the wide, pointy beak.
It ever so slightly turned to face Sean, turned to face me again, then lowered itself until it was right next to my ear. What it said to me filled me with a dread that I can’t even begin to describe.
It was a like nauseating lump in my chest whenever its words crossed my mind.
There were many other instances after that, but that was a pivotal moment, a catalyst for all the sinister events that would occur.
Like, when Sean and I went fishing and we had ignored the warnings of the deep, grey clouds above and the light, distant roar of thunder.
Before we got our bait onto the hook, it began to rain. Hard. Like a depressing soap opera in the sky. It rained so much that we had to squint our eyes to see ahead of us. Everything was a blur.
We risked getting rainwater in our eyes, which was painful in itself. Even the wind had joined in on the fun. It was pushing us back to the point where both my feet were dragging backwards without much effort.
Sean was right behind me, holding on to my jeans. My umbrella was about to squash under the pressure.
But eventually, I managed to position it in such a way that I had a split second…a split second, to see the tiny, wide heads popping out of the rippling lake.
Those charcoal eyes…numb, and shark-like, were fixed onto us.
Another time, and this has nothing to do with them…or maybe it does. I kept finding dead bird fetuses around the house. Simsim, my fat, ginger cat, would carrying them around it his beak.
I freaked out the first time I saw it. The yellow beak, the rubbery, hairless body, the closed eyes, the snapped neck.
After giving it a decent burial, I searched my roof left, right and center but, there wasn’t a nest in sight.
The worst of it happened tonight but, I’ll get to that in a bit. The day before yesterday brought back the one thing I was trying to keep six feet under.
The exact moment the thing leaned down and whispered in my ear. I knew what was about to happen and it…sucked the life out of me.
It was after lunch when I went upstairs to my bedroom, that I checked my phone for the time and saw the date.
My stomach dropped and I sank into my desk chair. A few minutes later, Sean entered my bedroom and found me in a terrible state. My head was pressed against the desk with hot tears pooling around me.
Without saying a word, he hopped onto my desk and put my head on his lap.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, softly, “Did they scare you again?”
I forgot to point out that by this time, Sean and I were well aware of the creatures that were stalking us, which gave him a little more courage to face them, much to my surprise.
The fact that I knew seemed to make him…calmer now that he had someone who believed him. But I knew that it was only a matter of time before he crumbled again.
“Mum still says it’s you,” Sean said, “it’s you who’s making them up to scare me.”
“Bitch,” I mumbled, unsure of whether he heard or not.
“I found my old light saber. I can use that to show them who’s boss!” he exclaimed, raising an imaginary light saber in the air.
There was no stopping the tears that poured out of my mouth. I wasn’t even trying to hide it from him. Sean freaked out.
He kissed me on the forehead, stroked my hair and was still under the impression that I was crying because of Mum.
Sean is the best brother a feisty big sister could’ve ever asked for. But tonight, as I was about to go to bed, I began to smell something funny. It was rotten and stomach-churning.
I pulled my t-shirt up to my face and began through every corner of my room. I couldn’t place my finger on it at first but the longer I stayed there, the stronger it got.
I opened my window to air out the foul odor and called Simsim into my room.
The second he stepped into my room, he dove for the space under my bed. I stood there for a moment, then my throat ran dry as the reality hit me like a bus.
I gulped, got on my knees and realized that the smell was definitely coming from under there. When my eyes met the gruesome sight before me, I gasped and fell backwards.
Underneath my bed, unbeknownst to me, was a swarm of dead fetus birds, with their necks snapped, some still twitching helplessly. How could Simsim not have known about this avian graveyard?
Either way, I wanted Simsim out of there immediately before he caught something he wasn’t supposed to, which mean that I had to go back under my bed and face those…poor babies.
With my hand around the scruff of his neck, I was about to pull him out when, the mattress springs above me creaked.
My heart stopped. Was it Sean? Surely, I would’ve heard his footsteps behind me.
And then, I heard it.
Click, click, click.
Simsim hissed and growled. His back was arched and his tail fluffed up in a way I had never seen before.
Feeling safe with Simsim next to me, I slowly crawled out from under my head, only to find a pair of charcoal eyes staring back at me.
The clicking stopped once it saw me. And then, it slowly opened its beak and a hellish screeching sound filled my ears.
I screamed and ran out of there with Simsim behind me. I slammed the door shut. Sean was out of his room within minutes asking me, “What happened? What’s wrong?”
I didn’t answer him. Instead, I grabbed him and dragged him downstairs, making a quick stop in the kitchen and bolted into the dark basement.
You may be wondering where Sean is. If I’d brought him down here with me, surely, I would’ve talked about him. The truth is, he is with me. With us.
It won’t be difficult for them to find him. The blood seeping out from under the fridge should be a dead giveaway.
He was complaining about how he forgot his lightsaber in his room and had nothing to fight them with.
He insisted, however, that we were going to fight them together. That we were going to get out of there.
The basement door bursts open. Tiny footsteps are approaching the fridge. They can smell him and are hissing with delight!
It won’t be long before they get me. I’m not that far away.
If you ever have the misfortune of encountering these monsters, you may or may not make it out alive.
And as long as you are alive, you won’t understand the reason for their existence. You won’t know where they come from, or why they’re after you. You won’t get them but, they will get you. They always do. They never forget.
I put my hand against the side of the fridge with tears streaming down my face. I cover my mouth with my hand, wishing it had a soft hand to grip.
Then, as dawn cast a reddish glow across the sky, I close my eyes and take my last breaths.
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