"'It was a dark and stormy
night. And…’ No that’s too clichéd” The writer said as he then
erased the first line of his new book. But it actually was dark
and stormy on that bleak mid-summer night. The writer’s name was
Jeffery Toll. The critics were never kind to him. But Jeff had
published fifteen novels since his junior year in college.
Fourteen of them had been best sellers. And it was likely that no
matter what he wrote, people would buy his next book based upon
name recognition alone. But Jeffery Toll did not want to simply
rest on his laurels. He wanted all of his books to be talked about
for years to come. He wanted to be seen in history as at least one
of the greatest writers of his time. To do that, he had keep
putting out stories that broke new ground in both horror fiction
and science fiction. At least this is what Jeff believed. His
ten-year-old daughter, Karen, would have disagreed.
Karen Toll wanted nothing more than to be able to spend some quality time with her dad. After all, didn’t he love her? She loved him with all of her heart. But she was never quite certain how her dad felt. It wasn’t as though affection was not shown in the family. Karen’s dad always bought her nice gifts. Especially when he would go on his book tours. But Karen did not need those things. She only wanted to spend some time with one of the two people that she loved the most in the world. The other person was her mother, Linda.
Linda Toll had met Karen’s father when they were both attending Northeastern University, in Boston. Linda had been, and still was, a good-looking brunette with a body that men would have done almost anything to be close to. Jeff had been a scrawny, awkward outcast who sought only to lose himself in fiction. The two of them had started out as friends. But time changes everything, and everyone. Jeff had taken to going to the gym, and built himself into something of an athlete. The effect actually made people look at him more as a muscle bound moron more than the daydreaming writer that he was. But Linda saw through it. And after years of just being friends, they moved onto something more serious. Eventually, they fell in love.
Two years after Linda had gotten her diploma from Northeastern they got married in St Theresa’s church in West Roxbury Massachusetts. Jeff never graduated because success had reached him before his requirements were completed. The notion of a best-selling author still working for an English degree had never set well with him. His diplomas were his books.
Two years later Karen was conceived. Jeff had a successful career doing what he loved. Linda had gone on to graduate school in the field of psychology, and had eventually set up a private practice in Boston. Karen’s arrival had only added to the overall joy in their lives. Everything was about as perfect as it could possibly have been for them all. Of course, perfection has an ugly habit of leaving people behind. Everything built in a lifetime can suddenly fade away almost instantly. No matter how well people have prepared for the unexpected, and no matter how much strength people find in each other, there’s always something that seeks to tear it all apart. This is the story about one of those somethings. It came on that dark and stormy night, while Linda was out of the house at a psychiatric conference. And it all began as Karen began pleading with her dad to let her stay up past her usual bedtime of ten o’clock.
“I don’t know…”
“ I’ll be good. Honest.”
“I won’t bother you. Not one bit. I’ll keep quiet and just watch TV or something.”
“Well why do you want to stay up late, anyway?”
“Just because.” It was a common reply that all children gave at one point or another. But the real reason was that Karen wanted to be around her dad. She wanted to spend time with him somehow. And maybe if she didn’t bother him too much he might read her a story, or play a game with her, or something. Karen knew that she had promised not to bother her dad. But a little lie never hurt anyone.
“Well, okay honey. Right now it’s nine-thirty. You can stay up until midnight, but only if your mother never finds out about it.”
“Cause she’d have a cow and a half?” Karen said giggling.
“Exactly. Now go on and play.” And off she went.
Jeff watched his little girl scamper out of his office space with a smile on her face. Her long blonde hair bounced around as she ran away in her red overalls. Jeff knew he shouldn’t have caved in, but he hadn’t been around a heck of a lot lately. He needed to score some points with his little girl. The business of writing never seemed so distant from his college expectations than when he had to traipse around the country signing books. Jeff had always felt that the most important work to be done was the writing itself. His publicist, and his agent did not always agree. Book tours were their main point of disagreement. And in the end, Jeff always had to give in. But he was determined not to let his professional life take away from his family life. And if that meant letting his daughter stay up a little bit late on a Friday night in the summer time then so be it.
Karen set herself down in the living room. The living room was where the most comfortable furniture was; two dark purple, abundantly cushioned sofas. One stretched the length of the room, while the other stretched the width. Both gave a good vantage point for watching the forty-eight inch television set that had always engrossed Karen with cartoons. But she had been fading away from the cartoon scene within the last year or so. Karen had wanted to seem more grown up. She wanted to be treated like an adult. And adults got to watch horror movies late at night. Karen had often seen her parents up watching one scary movie or another, and the fact that they enjoyed being scared perplexed her.
To children, being scared is an experience to be avoided. The churning in the pit of your stomach as the unsuspecting victim plays right into the hands of the brutal psycho. Or worse yet, the young couple that seems oblivious to the monster in the woods that only lets itself be known when the killing is about to start. Of course Karen had been told, and she believed that there are no monsters in the world. The movies are made just to scare people. Monsters were never going to come for her in the middle of the night. This is what Karen’s parents had told her. And this is what Karen believed wholeheartedly.
“Nightmare on Elm Street” was the name of the movie that Karen had decided to watch. Her parents defiantly would not have approved of her watching that kind of movie late at night, but Karen knew that her dad would be too busy writing his book to know. She’d just have to keep the volume low and try not to get too scared.
As the opening credits, along with the eerie theme song began to play, Karen took a moment to look around the room. It was the one room in the house that never changed. The furniture was always in the same place. The wall behind the sofa directly across from the TV held a painting of a house with a little girl playing on the well-detailed lawn of the front yard. Karen sat with her back to this painting so she had to stretch in order to see it. The painting always looked serene, and Karen had come to like it very much over the years. Of course she hated the painting that hung above the other sofa. Well, it wasn’t really a painting, only a copy that her parents had bought at the Museum of Fine Arts. But the ghastly figure that was portrayed never did anything for her but bother her nerves. She had remembered seeing commercials on TV for a string of movies that gave the bad guys the same kind of face. In fact, the movies and the painting shared the same name as well. But Karen didn’t think that the movie bad guys would scare her. The people in the movies were only wearing masks. The painting was far more ominous. The painting gave off the impression of a ghost being in the same room with her. The painting gave her nightmares that no movie could. Karen hated the painting because of that. It was the one thing in the world that she thought could ever really scare her.
The movie began with a blond girl being chased
by a guy who looked like his face had been ripped off. Karen
acknowledged this fact as being gross, but she liked his hat. It
was one of those hats that Humphrey Bogart wore in his detective
movies. Karen loved to watch Bogart movies. Her friends didn’t
understand why anyone would want to watch a movie in black and
white, but Karen would always swore that there was more to
movies than just special effects. Besides, she always thought
that Bogart was kind of cute. But the bad guy with the knives
for fingers was anything but cute. After a while Karen got used
to seeing his scarred up face, but those opening moments had
been awkward for her. They made her want to flip on a Bogart
movie and forget about seeing what it was like to be scared.
Within minutes she was scared though. The thought of having a dream be real, and to be hurt by a nightmare was extremely unsettling for her. Karen remembered her own bad dreams. She remembered being chased by awful things that screamed and howled at her. She remembered being chased by one thing that had been made up of leaves. Only the leaves were tough, and hard. She wasn’t sure if it was a monster covered by the dying leaves, or that the leaves had been what made up the monster. All she knew was that it liked to chase her. It liked to hear her scream. And no matter what she did, it always got her. But luckily she’d wake up before it could hurt her. Luckily it was just a dream.
By the time ten o’clock came around people had already started to die. Karen remembered feeling sorry for the blond girl who had been stabbed in the stomach by the bad guy. The girl had then been dragged up a wall, and then dragged along the ceiling. Nobody could help her. Nobody could stop the bad man from making her die. It seemed unreal to Karen, even though she knew that it wasn’t real. But all the stories that she was used to never involved anybody good being murdered, unless you count Bambi's mother But that didn’t really count because it was just a “dumb old deer,” as Karen would say. But Karen always cried during that scene. She’d never admit it, but she cried. But that was the thing about kids’ movies. When someone important died, it got built up. The story wouldn’t just let a good guy die without some kind of emotional build up. The only build up that the blond girl got was the build up of knowing that she was going to die. There had not been a moment during the sequence that Karen hadn’t known that the girl was going to die. Karen had hoped, and almost prayed that the inevitable would not take place, but it did. The bad guy got what he wanted. And he was going to come back for more, of that Karen was positively certain.
It was at this point that Karen decided to go pay her dad a visit.
“I’m just going to go check and see how he’s doing.” Karen thought to herself. “There’s no other reason. It’s just a dumb old movie. I’m not scared.”
Jeff Toll had finally gotten going at a fairly good pace with his writing. The last thing that his mind needed was for his ten-year-old daughter to walk in and disrupt his concentration. But he couldn’t get angry with her. After all, how much time did they get to spend with each other? But he had to at least feign annoyance so that she would know that he was trying to get work done.
“Honey, you know I have a lot of work to do.”
“Yeah, but dad… I just want to see what you’re doing.”
“I’m writing. You know that.”
“Well what are you writing about?”
“I’m writing about what happens to little girls who stay up past their bed-time.” Jeff replied with a smile. Karen smiled back. And that was all it took to make Jeff forget all about his work for the moment.
“Dad, why do people like to be scared?”
“Why do you ask?”
“No reason. I’m just curious.”
“What are you watching anyway? It’s not something scary, is it?”
“No. Not really.”
Jeff knew at once that Karen was trying to lie without it seeming like a lie. He wondered what movie she had selected. He wondered what his little girl was watching in order to feel more grown-up. But he didn’t say anything about it. After all, he had seen his first horror flick long before he had been Karen’s age. It was only a matter of time before the issue of TV violence and gore entered her mind. But at least Karen had seen fit to ask a question that he should know the answer to. But after years of surprising, and terrifying readers, he didn’t quite have a complete answer himself. But he tried.
“Well honey, people like make-believe because the stories let them get away from their everyday life. The scary stuff that happens in movies are things that people don’t really get a chance to experience, thankfully. But people still want to be taken out of themselves. Do you understand?”
“No.” Karen replied. She had a look of curiosity that people have a tendency to lose as they grow up. It was a look that begged for answers to questions that usually seemed very simple to grown-ups. Of course, kids were not inclined to like a simplified answer. They wanted to know about what was going on. They wanted to understand the stuff that most grown-ups take for granted, or don’t really think about enough to see any real importance. Jeff had always been told as a child that he asked too many questions, and that he should just accept things without knowing exactly why. He didn’t want his daughter to hear that kind of response though. He wanted her to be able to understand everything that she could.
“People like to feel alive. They like to feel intense experiences, but still want to know that they are safe. That’s why your mom and me love to go on roller-coasters in theme parks.” He could see that he was getting his point across, but decided to push it further. “Being scared by real things is not fun. People don’t like that because there’s a chance that something bad could happen. But being scared by a movie is different. You can get scared, and still know that you’re really safe. You can see things that you’d never want to see in real life, but know that it’s okay. Because you know what you’re seeing is fake. So no matter how scared, or grossed out that you might feel, you know things are okay.”
“And being scared makes you jump, so you know that your feet are really in the living room and not in the room with the bad man?”
“That’s right. Now which bad man are we talking about, anyway?” Jeff said with a smile. He knew that the truth was about to come out about what Karen was watching, and he was more than a little bit interested.
“It’s just a man in a movie.” Karen said as she turned her head away from him with a guilty smile.
“I hope this movie isn’t too scary. We wouldn’t want you to have nightmares.”
“But I thought that was part of being scared?”
“Well it is. But you’re still growing up. And in order for you to grow up big and strong you need to be able to sleep.”
“I’ll be okay. Honest.”
Jeff could hear the sincerity that her voice
held. He knew that she was going to be scared though. It was
only a little past ten and she’d already come looking for
reassurances that she shouldn’t really be afraid. But he had to
give her some freedom. He had to be the good guy sometimes. So
he let her head back to the living room. But not before getting
a hug, and a kiss on the cheek. Then she skipped her way out of
his office with a smile. Jeff smiled too. Then he realized that
his train of thought had been interrupted. He silently swore at
himself. Not for anything that he or Karen had done. He swore at
himself out of habit when a frustrating moment came up. Then he
walked outside to have a cigarette. Had to have the smoke
outside. Couldn’t let Linda know that he hadn’t actually quit.
Karen sat down on the sofa facing the television and held the remote control in her hand. She summoned up her courage and pressed the play button so that she might take her journey into being looked at as more of an adult. The scene opened up with a curly haired brunette being chased through her house by the bad man. The girl was obviously asleep, because that was when the bad man came for people. That was when the bad stuff happened, when you’re asleep.
But Karen was wide-awake. More awake than if it had been only lunchtime. Karen did not want to admit that she was becoming scared to her dad. Then her dad would make want to turn off the movie, and maybe even make her go to bed. But she couldn’t go to bed then. Because when you were asleep, that was when the bad things could happen.
“No!” She silently thought to herself. “I will not get scared by some old movie. It’s not real. I’m just going to watch it. And I know I’m safe because I’m just in the living room, like daddy said.”
This set of thoughts calmed her nerves down, and the movie began to take on a comical effect in her mind. “Who’d be scared by this? It’s just some guy in a costume running around. He can’t hurt me. He can’t…”
Karen looked around for what had made the noise. At first she thought that it was just a noise that had sounded like her name. Then she thought that the voice had come from the TV. That’s all. Just someone being called in the movie that had the same name. Karen settled down and giggled to herself.
“Dad, is that you?” Karen asked. No response came. She walked over to the entrance to the living room and peeked around the corner for any sign of her dad playing a practical joke. But he wasn’t there. “It’s just that unconscious stuff that mom always talks about. There’s nothing there.”
“Oh but I am here, Kaaarrren.”
Karen didn’t wait around to think about what she was hearing. She just bolted from the room and headed straight for her dad’s office. Only he wasn’t there.
“Maybe it was him.” She thought. “Maybe daddy is just trying to be funny. Maybe…”
“It’s not your daddy, Kaaarrren.”
Karen jumped about as high as her little legs could manage, only she didn’t notice. All she noticed was that the voice didn’t sound anything like her dad. It didn’t sound like her mom, or her parents friends, or anyone that she had ever heard speak. It was someone strange. Someone strange was playing a trick on her.
“It’s not the bad man from the movie either. I’m something new. Well, new to you.”
“But if I go away, then we can’t play. Don’t you want to play, Kaaarrren?”
“Go away!” She yelled. That’s when Jeff came back in the house. He heard Karen yell, and then immediately ran towards the sound of her voice calling out her name.
“Karen? Karen honey? What’s wrong?” He found Karen sitting in the far corner of his office. She had tears running down her cheeks, and the look on her face spelled nothing short of terror. “Karen? What happened, Karen? Was it the movie? Did the movie scare you?”
“Well what was it, honey? What happened?”
“I heard someone. Someone kept calling my name.”
“Who? Who was it?”
“I don’t know.”
“Did you see anyone?”
“Well how do you know someone is here?”
“I heard him daddy!” Karen said as the tears continued to stream down her face. Jeff took her in his arms and gave her a big hug.
“Honey, I’m going to go have a look around.”
“No, daddy don’t go.”
“Karen, I have to.” Jeff did not believe that there was anyone else in the house. It wasn’t that kind of neighborhood. But still, he had to check. “Come with me.
We’re going to have a look around. Now where did you hear the voice?”
“In the living room.”
As soon as Karen mentioned the living room Jeff thought of the movie that she had been watching. He had a fairly good idea that whatever had frightened his daughter was something that had been said in whatever movie was playing. And as they both got close to the living room, and Karen began to beg him not to go inside, Jeff saw the gruesome face of Freddy Krueger distorted with pain as a victim managed to get away with her life.
“Karen, there’s nobody here.”
“But there was.”
“Okay, okay. You stay here. I’ll check upstairs.”
“No buts. You stay here. I’ll be right back” And off Jeffery Toll went to check on his daughter’s invisible monster, leaving Karen alone in the living room.
“Maybe it was just in my head.” Karen thought. “Mommy does always talk about that unconscious thing that makes people think stupid stuff.”
“Mommies aren’t always right, Kaaarrren.”
“Who’s there?” Karen asked with a start. She was past the point of being able to cry. All that could be seen as a reaction was her jumpiness. And she was extremely jumpy.
“You know who it is, Kaaarrren. Why did you run away?”
“You scared me.”
“Awww. I didn’t mean to scare you. I just want to play with you.”
“Well… I’m not supposed to talk to strangers.”
“But I’m not a stranger Kaaarrren. Every child knows about me.”
“Well I’m not a child! Not anymore!”
“Oh, but you are. I admit that kids grow up fast. But you haven’t quite grown up enough to forget about me.”
“I don’t know you.”
“Yes you do. Every child knows me. I have many names, but they all mean me. I’m the thing that disturbs your sleep. I’m the thing that gives you nightmares when you shouldn’t even know what fear is. I’m the thing that makes noises in the night, straightens the hairs on the back of your neck, and leaves you screaming for your mommy and daddy in the middle of the night.”
“Wh…wh…what do you want?”
“I just want to play. I want to play a game. But I’ll wait until later to tell you about it. Your daddy is on his way back. And we wouldn’t want to disturb his work anymore. At least, you wouldn’t, because then he might send you to bed. And we both know that the bad things come when you’re asleep. So let’s just try to keep me a secret. Okay, Kaaarrren?”
Karen didn’t answer. She didn’t say a word. Not even when Jeff came down the stairs. She just stared at the picture that hung to the left of the sofa that she had been sitting on. It was the picture that had always unnerved her. It was the picture that had always given her bad dreams, and always made her feel uncomfortable. But it didn’t make her feel uncomfortable anymore. In fact, Karen found that she could actually relate to it. Because the expression on the ghostly face was the expression that Karen herself wanted to make. She wanted to enact the title of the painting as well. She wanted to scream her head off. But she didn’t. She didn’t want her dad to turn off the TV. She didn’t want her dad to take her up to her room. Karen did not under any circumstances want to be left alone in that house. She didn’t want to fall asleep. Because when she fell asleep, that was when the bad things would happen. That was when the bad thing would want to play with her the most. And whatever game was on the mind of the creature that had called to her, Karen wanted no part of it.
“Karen, honey, there’s nobody upstairs. There’s nobody else in the house. Okay? Karen, are you okay?”
“Well maybe I should turn the movie off.”
“No daddy! I…I’ll be okay.”
“Are you sure? Maybe you’re just overtired.”
“I’ll be okay daddy. I’m sorry I cried.”
“That’s okay, honey.” Jeff said. He could tell that something was still bothering Karen. He gave her a big hug, which she returned with a strength that was born out of fear. Jeff couldn’t understand it, and he really wanted to turn the movie off. But how could the movie have affected her so much? That was what Jeff wanted to know. He had seen the whole series of “Nightmare on Elm Street” movies. Sure they were gory, and could make you jump out of your seat. But what his daughter was experiencing was something that seemed a little too extreme. It almost made him wonder if she had heard something. Almost. But that would be impossible. After all, monsters didn’t really exist. They were just make-believe things that people thought up to tell a scary story. Jeff was an expert on scaring people. He had been doing it for years. And he knew that monsters were not real. And so with reluctance, he went back to work, hoping that at least the night’s event might help him with his work. Heck, the imagination of a child is a powerful thing. Maybe it would rub off on him.
Karen sat back down on the sofa that was facing the television. She stared at the events that were taking place on the screen with indifference. Then, a teenage boy, who looked very similar to that guy who was now in some drug-dealer movie, got sucked into his own bed by the bad man. Karen knew that the bad man’s name was Freddy, but she didn’t think that monsters should really have names. Her monster didn’t have a name. It was just something that wanted to scare her. It wanted to hurt her. And Karen didn’t want to get hurt.
“Why do you think that I want to hurt you, Kaaarrren?”
Karen did not want to respond. She thought
that maybe if she ignored the thing then it might go away.
That’s what her mommy had always told her about bullies in
school. And that’s what this thing was being. It was being a
bully; an invisible, and terrifying bully. But a bully, just the
“I don’t want to hurt you, Kaaarrren. I just want to play a game. It’s a game that will help me. Don’t you think that it’s a good thing to help people? Don’t you think that your mommy and daddy would want you to help people?”
“You’re not a person.” Karen said finally. She didn’t like the thing talking about her mommy and daddy. She didn’t like the way it was trying to seem nice, when all it wanted to do was hurt her.
“I am something, Kaaarrren. I am something that needs help. Would you like me to explain?”
Karen did not respond. She just crossed her arms over her chest, lowered her head, and began to cry again.
“I am something that only a child can see.
Only children can hear me. Only children can know that I am in
the room. And they always know when I’m in the room. But you
see, in order for me to keep going about what I do, I need to be
able to see things as a child sees them. I need to be able to
experience the world through a child’s eyes. And the eyes I have
now are getting very old and tired. Let me know when you see
where this is heading, won’t you? But why waste time with
theatrics. Kaaarrren, I want to play a game with you. It’s
called, little girl, give me your eyes. Would you like to know
how it’s played?”
Karen backed up against the sofa. She was too terrified to speak. She stood up as she pushed herself harder and harder against the back of the sofa. She wanted to get away from the thing. She wanted to get away from the house. She wanted to get away.
“Kaaarrren, did I frighten you? Oh, how callous of me. But then, that’s what I do. I frighten children. Sometimes, I even kill children, children like you. Kaaarrren, look at my eyes. See how tired they are?”
And all at once Karen could see them. She could see two eyes. She could see two small childish eyes floating in the middle of the room. The eyes looked at her imploringly. But the only emotion that Karen could register was terror. Sheer and utter terror. And then the final straw was dropped on the camel’s back. For just below the eyes, not even a foot’s distance, a mouth appeared. Not just a mouth though. It was a mouth with teeth; razor sharp fangs that glistened under the lighting of the room. The teeth gave form to a sickening smile that could in no way be described as human. In no way could the smile have been considered a good thing. It was an evil smile. The kind of smile that foreboded evil tidings for anyone who bore witness to it. Karen took all of this in. She took in the whole situation as any rational person could. And then she did what even the bravest of all adults would do. She screamed. Karen screamed with a voice unlike any she herself had ever heard. It was a voice born from a fear that could not longer be contained. And as she screamed, the thing smiled even more. She could hear it begin to giggle, and then to laugh hysterically. It laughed even when Jeff came running into the room. It laughed as the TV was turned off in an effort to calm her down. It laughed when Jeff picked up Karen into his arms, hoisted her up to his chest, and then carried her out of the room. And all the while Karen kept on screaming. She screamed because she knew that the monster was coming for her. It was coming for her eyes, and her daddy would never believe her. He’d never believe that a monster was coming for her. He’d just tell her drink a glass of water and go to bed. But when she went to bed, that was when the bad things would happen. That was when she would die. And the thing would take her eyes away. It would take her eyes, and nobody was going to be there to protect her.
Jeff sat her down on the only chair in his office. It was a high-seated black spinning chair that was positioned right in front of his laptop. But he moved the chair to the other side of the room on this occasion. Past all the clutter that he loved so much, and over to the only open corner, the farthest corner from his workspace. This was to keep his frantic daughter from accidentally destroying what little work that he had been able to do so far.
For a while he just knelt in front of her, holding her in his arms in a desperate attempt to calm her dawn. Karen had stopped screaming, but she was still crying, and shivering all over. Jeff did not know what to make of the situation. He only knew that his daughter had seen something, or heard something that had disturbed her to the point of hysteria. The only thing that seemed to be calming her down was the fact that he was there. That was just enough to keep him from driving her to a hospital.
The idea of going to a hospital at that point seemed very comforting for him. In all his years of being a parent Jeff had never seen anything like the reaction that Karen was having to the movie that she had been watching. In the back of his mind he kept thinking about the voice that she had heard, and wondering if his daughter had developed some kind of neurological disorder.
“Linda would know.” Jeff thought. “She’d know what to do right now. She could tell what was wrong. After all, dealing with hysterical kids is her job. But I should be able to do this! This is my daughter! I know my daughter. I know…” But he didn’t know. In all the fiction that he had observed, from novels, to movies, to sitcoms, and dramas, nothing compared to the scene before him. That was where he lived most of the time, in fiction. Of course he had spent many an hour doing research about things for his books. He’d studied a little psychology, criminology, and a whole slew of other various topics so that he could keep his characters realistic. But what he was witnessing was not real. At least, it didn’t seem real. How could it seem real? His daughter, his flesh and blood had suddenly begun to suffer, and he didn’t know why. He didn’t know what was causing it, and he didn’t know how to make it better. That was all he wanted to do, to make everything better for his little girl. But he couldn’t. And that fact was the more terrifying for Jeff than anything that he had ever written or thought about.
“Tell me what’s wrong, Karen. Tell daddy what’s wrong. Please!”
The last word snapped Karen out of her shocked state. She looked at her dad with tears still running down her eyes and thought about all the bad things that were going to happen to her. She didn’t want the bad things to happen to her. She wanted to be safe. And she knew that as long as she wasn’t alone that everything would be okay because then the bad thing couldn’t her. So she took a chance.
“If I tell you… will you promise to believe me?”
“You have to promise! You have to… Please?”
“Just tell me what’s wrong and I’ll make it all better. I promise.”
Karen took a moment before speaking. And then she told him about the first time she heard the voice. Jeff didn’t say anything. He just nodded his head trying not to show any kind of disbelief. Then she told him about the second time she heard the voice. She told him about how the thing wanted her eyes. And she told him about the child’s eyes that it already had. She told him about the hideous mouth, and the teeth that had been grinning at her. And when Karen was all done, so too were her tears. The shivering had quieted down. And the fear had calmed down, a little. Jeff looked at his daughter with the most concerned expression that his face had ever held. And then he hugged her.
He brought Karen down to the floor with him and he held her like a baby in his arms. He rocked her back and forth telling her that everything would be all right. And as he rocked her, and told her everything would be all right, she began to believe him. Karen began to believe that as long as her daddy stayed with her, everything really would be all right. She believed it with every piece of her heart. She believed emphatically that she would be safe. This thought stayed with Karen as she drifted off to sleep.
Jeff rocked his little girl back and forth until he was sure that she was sound asleep. The girl was overly tired. That’s what he had told himself. “I should never have let her stay up so late.” He thought as he looked up at the clock. The night had truly flown away. It was already a quarter until mid-night. He had spent over an hour trying desperately to calm down his little girl. Jeff’s arms were tired. His nerves were shot. And his mind was nowhere near where it had to be to get any kind of serious work done. But before collapsing himself, he had to get Karen to bed. Jeff hadn’t decided exactly how to tell his wife what had gone on that night. He wasn’t completely sure himself. But that wasn’t important at that moment. All that was important was for his daughter to get a greatly needed rest. “She’ll feel better after she’s slept.”
He carried her up the stairwell trying not to jostle her too much. The stairwell had a white wall on the left, and an insulated banister on the right. It lead up to a hallway that held the only two bedrooms of the homestead. Karen’s bedroom was directly in front of the stairwell. The door was open when Jeff got there. He didn’t bother to turn the lights on, as that might wake up Karen. He just set her down on her pink covered bed, gently moved her long blonde hair out of the way, and kissed her on the cheek. With his little girl tucked away, Jeff could take some time to relax his nerves, and think of a way to broach the topic of the night’s events with his wife, Linda.
Jeff thought of Linda as he walked down the
stairs towards the living room. He thought of how much his
daughter had grown up to look like her. He thought about how
much he loved the both of them, and that he hoped that Karen was
just overly tired, and overly excited. He still couldn’t believe
how intricate Karen’s fantasy had been. It was a story scary
enough for him to write about. And maybe he would. Maybe his
daughter had given him an idea for something to do in the
When Karen was all grown up maybe they could even laugh about the whole thing.
“Just a dream.” Jeff said to himself. “Just a child’s waking dream.” With that thought in mind he walked into the living room and turned on the TV. It was a few minutes before midnight so Jeff decided to sit down and switch between Letterman and Leno. He’d always thought that Letterman was funnier, but that Jay had better guests. It was a late night war that he had enjoyed for many years, and he always looked forward to the getaway that the television provided. But sadly both shows were experiencing commercial breaks. So Jeff put the remote control down on the arm of the sofa that was at an angle to the TV. He did this so that he could lie down while he watched. But while the commercial blared away their attempts to sucker people into buying stuff that they really don’t need, Jeff decided to let his eyes pass over the room that he had dedicated to the sole purpose of entertainment.
He had his wide screen TV, a VCR, the latest and greatest in videogames, and blue mini-fridge that he kept locked because it was full of beer. There were only two pictures in the whole room. Both had been picked by his wife, Linda. But Jeff didn’t mind. He liked them both. The one that was sitting to his right had become his favorite of the two ever since Karen had been born. It was at that moment that Jeff decided to look at that painting. He hoped that it would give him a sense of calm about his daughter. What could have been a better image than to see a little girl happily playing in her front yard? But that is not what Jeff saw.
The words, “What the fuck?” could not be contained in Jeff’s throat. Then came the vise like grip that pulled at his stomach, the grip that could only be associated with fear. What Jeff saw in the painting was not a happy young girl playing. It was an image that reminded him of the picture that was hanging less than a foot above his own head. The girl in the painting was sitting up on the grass. Her mouth was open wide as can be. Tears were streaming down her cheeks. And the whole of the picturesque setting had been turned into that of dismal decay. But the most disturbing thing of all, the image that scared Jeff, the most was the eyes. The girl’s eyes were missing. Her eyes had not been erased, and they had not been covered by anything. They were simply gone. And all that was left in their place was a black void.
Jeff stood up and leapt at the picture to make sure that he was not going crazy. He had seen that picture, had almost memorized the picture for over twelve years. But it had changed. At some point in the night it had somehow been changed, and Jeff did not have a clue as to how.
His nerves were racked. It was at that point that Jeff questioned his own sanity. And then it happened. He heard exactly what he did not want to hear. It was a sound that he had dreaded the moment that the realization about the girl’s eyes had set in. He heard Karen scream. He heard his daughter scream with all of her might. She was screaming for him. She was screaming for her daddy. She was screaming because he had not believed her.
“Hang on Karen! I’m coming!” Jeff yelled as he sprinted up the stairwell faster than any Olympic runner that ever existed. The doorknob to Karen’s room didn’t work, so he had to break it down. With one hard shoulder thrust to the cheap wooden structure, the door collapsed. When Jeff tried the lights, they came on only for a second, and then flashed out. But in that second he saw his daughter writhing in pain as she struggled to keep some unseen force from getting at her eyes. Her arms were being cut by something that did not want to let go of its forceful grip. But Jeff wanted it to let go. He needed it to let go. And so he ran to the bed and grabbed Karen around the waist. But the thing did not want Karen to go. The force that was attacking Karen did not want her to escape. It pushed Jeff away with the strength of a bear. But Jeff would not be deterred. He wanted his daughter away from that room, and whatever was attacking her. And so again he grabbed Karen around the waist. But this time he pulled with all of his might, hoping beyond hope that his own strength would not hurt Karen. This time the thing let go, and Karen was free. But Jeff was not.
The invisible creature grabbed hold of him from behind, causing Jeff to drop Karen to the floor.
“Run, Karen!” Jeff screamed. “Run!” And she did run. She ran down the stairs and straight to the front door. As Karen ran out of the house she saw Linda, her mother pull up in her bright red station wagon. Karen also heard a loud set of banging that forced her head to look towards the front door. The creature was fighting with her dad. It was clawing at his eyes, making him scream. Karen had never heard her dad scream in pain before. She had never seen her dad bleed either. But he was screaming very loudly as the creature ripped into his face, and tore out his eyes. Mercifully it then broke his neck.
Linda ran towards the sound of her husband screaming. She ran towards her startled daughter. And what she saw was something that she will never forget. She saw her husband lying on the ground in a pool of his own blood. She saw his eyes floating in the air, seemingly staring back at her. And she heard a voice that sounded about as ungodly as anything that has ever been produced.
“These eyes will not do!” The creature screamed. “I need the eyes of a child! You know that, Kaaarrren! Give me your eyes, and I’ll let your mother live! Give me your eyes! Kaaarrren!” But it was too late. Linda had snatched up Karen into her arms and thrown her into the still open driver’s side door of the car. Linda immediately jumped in right after her and slammed the door shut.
She fumbled with the keys as she tried to block out the sound of the horrifying creature that was still screaming the name of her daughter. As she finally got the right key into the ignition she heard a kind of squishing sound on the driver’s side window. Without meaning to Linda looked towards the sound and saw the detached eyes of her husband pressed up against the window. Then she looked slightly down and saw the grin. She saw the grinning teeth. And she remembered an image that she had not seen since her childhood.
“I remember you, Liiinnndaaaa! Oh, yes! I remember the children! Give me your daughter and you won’t have to remember me. You’ll be able to forget. Give her to me, now!”
Linda couldn’t think. She couldn’t breathe.
She couldn’t even move. Not until Karen looked over to see the
thing pressed up against the window. Then Karen screamed, and
Linda screamed right along with her. And all at once Linda’s
senses came back to her and she turned the ignition key. Then
she pressed her foot down on the gas until it hit the floor. The
car sped away under the power of screeching tires. All the while
the thing screamed at them. Linda could hear it screaming as she
plowed down the rain filled streets. In fact it was pouring down
so badly that she could barely see through the rain. But she
could still hear the thing letting its frustration out with its
bellows of rage. Even over Karen’s screams, and her own screams
she could still hear the thing raging against their escape.
Even after what Linda had witnessed she still tried to get a grasp back on reality. She tried to figure out what had happened. She tried to figure out why it had happened. Most importantly she tried to figure out why she could still hear the thing screaming after she had been flooring the gas peddle for two minutes straight. Then Linda looked in her rearview mirror and she realized why.
The eyes were there. Her husband’s eyes were floating in the air, pressed up against the back windshield. The teeth were still grinning at her. And the voice was still raging. With this in mind Linda forgot about reality. She forgot about what should, and shouldn’t exist. She forgot about what should and shouldn’t happen. She also forgot about the road. But the road did not forget. And neither did the tree that marked a very sharp turn. It was a turn that Linda did not make. It was a tree that the car plowed into doing seventy miles an hour.
Linda woke up to the sight of emergency personnel working feverishly to keep her alive. Her head was pounding like a jackhammer, and her limbs were sore beyond anything she had ever experienced. She had broken both her legs in the crash. She suffered a concussion from when she had landed fifteen feet from the car. Her left shoulder had been dislocated and three of her ribs had been cracked. But she was alive. This was what the paramedics were telling her. But she didn’t care.
“Karen? Wh… where’s Karen? Where’s my little girl?”
“Ma’am,” A young female paramedic with dark curly hair was speaking to Linda. “Ma’am, we haven’t found anybody but you. Are you sure that she was with you?”
“Yes! Of course I’m sure! Karen?”
“Ma’am, hold on. Don’t move around. You’ll only hurt yourself. Now there was nobody in the car when we arrived. And we’re in a wide-open field. Are you sure that she was with you?”
“Yes. Yes, of course I’m sure! Karen! Karen?!”
“Ma’am, have you been drinking?”
“No! I am telling you that my little girl is out here somewhere! We have to find her. We have to find her before…Karen! Karen where are you?!”
The paramedics had to sedate her at that point so that she wouldn’t hurt herself. They searched the area, but Karen was nowhere to be found. Jeff was never found either. His body, the blood, it all disappeared. The police came to the conclusion that Jeff had run away with his daughter, Karen, sending Linda into a state of depression, or something to that effect. This theory was corroborated in their minds by the fact that the Linda kept insisting that a monster had killed her husband and child in an effort to steal the child’s eyes. But nobody believed her.
Linda went through all the physical rehabilitation confined to a mental hospital. The psychiatrists would always try to get her to talk about what had really happened. They urged her to forget about her obvious delusions.
“After all, monsters don’t really exist. Do they, Linda? You don’t really believe that? Do you? I mean you’re an adult. How can you believe in monsters? How can you believe in something that you can’t see?”