by Kateri Stanley
Genre: SciFi, Horror, Thriller
I see the click and switch when you turn off the television. I hear your heartbeat when you climb up the stairs. I can feel your soft bare feet on the carpet as you walk into your bedroom.
The night is peculiarly tranquil when I come to visit you. I try to keep my tread light as I step across the arms of the branches. The closer you are to me, the more I want to see you. I should know better. I shouldn’t be here, but I guess I’m just like any hot-blooded man. I’m weak. I’m drawn to you. I can’t stay away.
I hold on to the branches, easing my way across so I can see you. I smell the perfume you wore today, the wine you drank lingers on your lips. My heart pounds in my chest. One single snag and I’m done for. You’d know I was here, creeping around, spying on you.
I wouldn’t visit during the day because you of all people should know that I was made to be hidden, to pounce when the moment is right. I’m not here tonight to track and trace. Remember, I wouldn’t ever... ever harm you.
You waft out from the darkness, staring from your bedroom window. You tap your finger against your chest, you’re worried about something and I know why.
The authorities are hunting for me.
I know you've been tracking my every move. You’ve been searching and reading and ringing people. You’ve kept a keen eye on the news. The stories are rife. I know what they call me. But they don’t know the true tale or what my makers did.
I know about the urban legend. Some say I’m as tall as a tree, others say I wear a gas mask when I mutilate my victims. Some of the details make me laugh and frankly, some of them make me sad.
If I were to rewind the clock and undo the past, then I wouldn't have met you. You wouldn't know what you know and we wouldn’t have...
I tremble as I think about it. That kiss…
Your words, your skin...
Do you remember it? Do you ever think about it?
Hang on, forget what I said. Look, I took something precious from you many years ago. I stole it, ripped it from your heart. If things were different, I’d be inside this house, beside you, loving you - but you probably hate me. I don’t blame you at all if you do - and if you don’t, you should. I wish I could leave this alone, but I have something to do and I can’t ignore it, not this time. Neglecting the wounds will just make the infection worse.
Something screams from inside the house and you move from the window, disappearing into the darkness. Worry bubbles up from my core. I hope it’s not anything insidious or I’ll slash it to shreds.
Minutes trickle by and you haven’t returned. Where have you gone?
Scream or make a gesture and I’ll help you. If something bad is there, tell me and I’ll get rid of it. Where are you?
My heart slows when I feel your presence. Your heartbeat echoes in my ears. You’re calm, but there’s another beat. You emerge from the darkness again and I can’t breathe as I see it.
Perched against your chest, nuzzled by your shoulder. You cradle it so dearly. I want to cry at the sight of it.
Pull yourself together.
But there it is, there she is… The little life clings to your robe.
She has a crown of dark hair and ice blue eyes. I wish she didn't have those features. I’ve never been so... scared of anything before. I can imagine you laughing right now. When it comes to something like me – I’m what people are frightened of. I’m the entity teenagers tell, at sleepovers, to scare their friends. I’m the one bereaved family members try to summon with their Ouija boards.
Her cry is sickly. She has a fever. She’s been having nightmares, I can tell. I hope she doesn't dream about me. That’s the last thing I want.
You sway slightly, moving from left to right. You hum under your breath, a melody I remember from years ago when you first found me. You cup her tiny head in your palm, breathing tentatively as you sing. You’re a wonderful mother.
You cradle your daughter. Our daughter.
Her little cry begins to simmer. She’s falling asleep again, she feels safe. She’s in the best place.
You rock her and stare out of the window.
I’m here, but you can't see me. I wonder how you’d react if you knew I was here. Would you be repulsed?
I want to be able to knock on your door like any civilian and have the courage to do it. But we don’t live in that world. If it existed, it wouldn't be full of monsters like me or others we have come across together. You know what I’m talking about.
If she ever asks who her father is, or where he might be, make something up. Say I was a soldier who died serving his country, or I passed away from some natural disaster. Please, don’t tell her what I am or what I’ve done. I don’t want our child growing up hating me, and I don’t want her childhood wrecked like mine was.
She may grow curious in the future. If she ever starts to ask questions, you’ve got to promise you will stop her. Don’t let her investigate.
I can tell you know new things because your face shivers with concern. You must understand, not everything written about me is true. Some of the details in the news must make you sick, but I’m not responsible for its entirety.
As our baby girl falls asleep on your shoulder, a flame of a smile dances across your lips. You look out to the trees where I’m hiding and for a flash, your gaze locks with mine. You know I’m here, don’t you?
You stare at me for just a second, then your eyes dart down to our child. The innocent beauty is consumed by her dreams. She won’t be having anymore nightmares, not for tonight anyway. I’m just sorry for you and our little one.
Your eyelids start to hover. You must go to sleep. I’ll be back, sometime. I’m not going anywhere. I wouldn’t leave you but... if things do come to desperate measures, I just hope I won’t need your help. You’re the only one who understands what happened to me.
You still stand there, watching, on guard. The way you’re stationed reminds me of a time when things were different, when you stood before me, your expression wild and curious, when the innocent girl revealed she wasn’t scared of a monster. When she...
No, I won’t go there. That time is long gone now. Those moments are in the stars, unreachable and distant.
I remember waking up and finding you gone, your scent all over me like droplets of morning dew. Now I know why you ran, but I don’t understand why you’d keep digging for answers.
You move to the side of the window and pull the blind. All I can see is your silhouette.
I feel your footsteps as you put our daughter to sleep. I hear the switch of the baby monitor and her little whimper. I sense the sweep of your gown falling against your legs when you wrap your limbs into the bed covers. I close my eyes for a second, I wish your arms were around me.
My hunger and desire grow like the sun in the dawn. I can taste your skin all over again, hearing you gasp and pant against my neck. But I can’t stay in the past anymore. I’d willingly drown in that memory if I could.
I feel you falling into your dreams. You do it so easily.
I wait for a while until I’m certain you’re both at peace. I climb down quietly from the trees and focus on the house. Please, stay out of this from now on. I know how your mind works. Once you grab a theory hot in your blood, you will hunt and seek it out until you get answers. Maybe, the news will churn out viler content and you will stay away, for good.
I walk across the front garden, fleeing from the house. I say a prayer for you and our child. I love the both of you so much.
Forget about me, please. But, now and then, maybe when you’re alone. Remember me.
Kateri Stanley graduated from The Open University with a degree in Arts and Humanities and worked for the National Health Service for 8 years. When she's not writing stories, you can find her binge-watching films, creating playlists for her projects and dabbling in the occasional video game. She currently resides in the West Midlands, United Kingdom with her partner. They are hoping to be cat parents soon.
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