Today’s flash fiction challenge at Terrible Minds was to write a story about a new type of monster, not one you always hear about like vampires, zombies, ghosts, ghouls, demons, etc. 1000 words max. Enjoy.
Lately, the walk to the barn had been feeling torturously long.
Though the brown aluminum sided shed was just seventy-five feet across the lawn, Dan knew that such a measly distance was seventy-five feet more than it needed to catch him. The animals required feeding to survive, though, and fuck if he was going to let them suffer for his own problems.
Adrenaline already pumping, he glanced left and right before stepping off the deck. He didn’t know why he bothered to look for it; he never saw it coming. He couldn’t see it coming. It didn’t allow that. He worried that the sound of his feet shuffling over the grass was enough to draw its attention. Each day he hoped that it had decided to move on, feast on someone else, but each day he was disappointed to learn that it had made a home of his… call it backyard, but it wasn’t really the backyard this thing lived in.
When he made it to the barn without sight of it, he did not allow himself to feel relief. It could always get him on the way back.
Inside the barn, he peered around and admired his handiwork. Until a week ago, the twenty-five hundred square foot area had been chaos. Cages had lain here and there, wherever he’d found a spot to put them, two or three animals to a pen, rats dangling from the trusses. Animals were dying because he’d forget to feed one pen or another. He had too many goddamned animals to look after. Why he kept them, added to them, he would never know.
But a week ago was when it showed up.
Since then, Dan had torn down the old pens and built thirty smaller ones along two of the walls. Each miniature pony, each dog, each cat, each rabbit had its own pen. The laying hens got the biggest of the pens to share. The barn floor was as clean as the day the cement had been poured. Not a rat hung from the trusses, not a swallow flew around in panicked frenzy, searching for an escape. Since it had arrived, Dan’s degree of organization and focus had increased exponentially. He now had talent he had never thought possible.
But regardless of what it had done to him, it was a monster.
After feeding all of the animals, giving each creature a few loving strokes across the fur of their necks, he returned to the door.
At once his fear returned.
He glanced back at the animals. They were all staring at him, as if they knew.
Stealing a deep breath, Dan plunged into the cool autumn air. The sun had not yet risen above the morning clouds in the east, so the quality of light forbade any sense of warmth.
Goosebumps inundated his skin.
He knew it was watching him.
“Please,” he whispered, “not today.”
Before he could step off the cement pad onto the grass, something flew into him, knocked him back into the barn door. He hit his head hard enough to ache, and as he looked down at his chest, the point of impact, he realized that, though it remained unseen, it had come back for him.
He could feel it wrenching beneath his ribcage, crowding his organs not painfully but with extreme pressure. When it got to him like this, he was completely debilitated.
Its thrashing knocked him to the ground. Looking up into the old apple tree, he watched its face form before his eyes. The face was nothing solid, just ripples in his vision that formed something that looked a bit like eyes, a bit like a mouth. Sometimes it was feline; sometimes it looked like a rabid bat; sometimes it looked human, and that was the most frightening.
“Are you ready?” it hissed.
Because he couldn’t move, couldn’t even look this way or that, he shouted in his mind for it to go away. He didn’t need any more focus or talent or organizational abilities. He didn’t need any of it. It was making him irrational, senseless, obsessive, and it was making him callous.
Despite his pleas, he soon felt the pressure in his brain. It quickly mutated into agonizing, blinding pain. White stars appeared in his vision, but he couldn’t scream. That was the worst part. There was no way for him to release the hurt.
Within twenty seconds, it had retreated back to his core. The pain was gone.
“You’ve done bad things this week.”
No, Dan answered in his head, panting. I’ve been good.
“You’ve thought about killing your friend. He doesn’t understand your change. You don’t like feeling different.”
It was just a tiny thought, he answered. I’m getting better. I’m not useful to you anymore. I hardly have any negative energy left. Please, move on to someone else. It’s a big world.
“No,” it said, “your negativity is building. Enjoy the clarity today and make sure to wear yourself out. I’m still hungry… I hope you kill him. Kill him for me and maybe I’ll find someone else to feed off.”
It fled his chest then, yanked its way out, and though he couldn’t see its departure, Dan knew that it was gone for the day.
On the ground, on his back, he turned his head towards his house. He saw that a few deck boards were beginning to rot through. He had to make sure to replace that deck today. And the siding. Why was that tree dying? Had to cut that down today, too.
He would call Mike to help.
Maybe, when he had killed his friend, the laziest firefighter to receive a bravery award that he knew, it would leave him alone. It had to. And then things could return to normal. No more clarity, no more neurotic, demented behaviour; he wanted to be normal again.
No one noticed him when he was normal.
And people were beginning to notice him…
© Lindsay Mawson 2011