By Mary Grant
It’s coming undone,
It’s coming undone,
Oh help me god I’m coming undone.
I just wanted a sweater, now what have I done?
It‘s gotten a snag, it’s gotten a run.
It’s gotten a snare,
it’s coming undone.
It caught on that nail
it did, It did
Ripped just the corner
it did, it did
And I pulled it, I pulled it
I did, I did
It keeps coming and coming,
It does it does
A massive long string
oh why, oh why
Unraveling, unraveling just like me
Just like my house
Just like my life
Just like my work
my kids, my wife
Oh why oh why?
Longer and longer
Longer and longe
It’s coming undone
And I wish I could die.
“Shadows in the Dark”
By Kathryn Makin
Every night when I wake up, the Scary Man is waiting for me. He stands in the corner of my room, by my door, hidden in the dark spaces where the moonlight doesn’t reach. I can always tell he’s there because of how cold the room is. It’s always warm when Mommy puts me to bed, but no matter what time I wake up at night, I wake up shivering with cold – and fear.
I don’t understand what he wants from me. He never tries to talk to me; he just stands there, waiting. I think he knows I can see him, but I’m not sure. I never want to let on that I know he’s there. If he’s playing a game with me, that would make me the loser. I’m certain I don’t want to lose this game.
It doesn’t help that I’m the only one who can see him.
He’s moved positions now – I guess lurking in the corner got boring for him. He’s now standing in the other corner of my room, by my dresser.
He’s now closer to my bed.
There’s still no moonlight where he stands, but I don’t need much light to see him, and notice little details that I’d missed before: he’s tall, and dressed in a thick black cloak. The hood is pulled forward, over his head, but that’s all right with me. I’m not sure I want to see his face.
I try to tell Mommy and Daddy about the Scary Man, but they don’t believe me. They just smile and pat my head affectionately, asking me if I’ve made a new friend. I start to cry. He’s not a friend! He’s scary. I can’t make him go away. I don’t know what he wants from me.
What do you want him to want from you? asks Mommy. What do you want to give him?
Nothing. I don’t want to give him anything. But I’m still afraid he’ll take something from me, whether I want him to or not, and I won’t be able to stop him.
My eyes pop open in the darkness and the room is so cold I know the Scary Man has to be here. I borrow under my covers, trying to get warm. I pull my blanket over my head. If I can’t see him, he can’t see me, right? Isn’t that how the game works? But I’m not sure anymore. If we’re playing a game, it’s one I don’t know the rules too. I’m scared of what happens if I lose.
I hear cloth swish, thick and heavy, and I know without seeing it that the Scary Man has moved from his place in his new corner. I hear him take one step, then two.
A spike of cold fear shoots through me, and I whimper.
“Who are you?” I whisper into the darkness. ”What do you want from me?”
My voice is muffled by my pillow, as I’ve half-smothered my face as if that would be enough to hold my fear inside. I don’t know that he can hear me.
It doesn’t matter. He still doesn’t answer.
He doesn’t move any more that night, but I stay wide awake until dawn comes and I can hear the birds singing.
He doesn’t stand in the corner anymore. When I wake up at night now, the Scary Man is standing in the middle of my room, exactly two adult-sized footsteps away from where he used to be. I still can’t see his face, and he still manages to hide in the dark shadows in my room. There should be moonlight shining on the floor where he stands now. There isn’t any. The beam of light fractures and breaks when it shines on him, disappearing into the blackness of his cloak. It’s like he himself is a black hole, and I wonder if he’ll suck me in the exact same way he does the moonlight.
I’m awake when I hear him take two more steps. He’s at the foot of my bed now.
Close enough for me to be able to see his face, if it wasn’t completely covered in the ink blackness that steals my moonlight away. I’m so cold now my teeth chatter. My body shakes all the time now. When Mommy comes in in the morning and sees all the blankets on my bed, she looks puzzled, then immediately asks me if a have a fever.
I shake my head. I’m not warm. I’m never warm anymore.
“Is this part of the game, baby?” she asks me as she sits on the edge of my small bed. I nod my head, then give it a vigorous shake. Yes. No. I don’t know anymore. I’m scared, Mommy. I’m so scared. Help me.
I open my mouth, but no words come out.
Who are you? What do you want from me?” I ask the Scary Man still standing at the foot of my bed. I think he likes it there – he’s never stood in one place for so long before. I’m still terrified, but a part of me is relieved that he hasn’t moved yet.
“If this is a game, I don’t want to play it anymore.”
Lightening bursts into my room, turning my world white for a split second. Thunder is not far behind, and the sound of it makes me clap my hands over my ears. My entire house shakes from the force of it.
I wonder if this is his answer.
“Please? Why won’t you leave me alone?”
Lightning flashes again, and for an instant in time, my world is frozen. I can see his face.
I am looking at his face, in this one moment suspended in time, and it is the most terrifying thing I have ever seen.
I want to run, but there is nowhere for me to go.
I’ve slept in Mommy and Daddy’s bed for the past week. They trade bemused looks with each other when they think I’m not looking, but simply shrug it off as a child’s whim. At night I wriggle my way between them, feeling safe and warm.
Daddy snores and Mommy kicks me in her sleep. I don’t care. The Scary Man won’t dare come in here, and I know it. He can’t touch me here.
But I know I can’t stay here forever. I’m scared I’ll see his face again. I’m scared he’ll be standing even closer to my bed.
Welcome back, little one. I missed you.
At church, I sit and listen to Pastor Rick talk about things called demons. They’re everywhere, he says, and you’ll never even know it. They can do scary things, and they hurt anyone they can.
Mommy doesn’t like the sermon, I can tell. Her lips are pressed in a thin line, and her eyes are hard. She doesn’t hold my hand like she usually does.
Demons. The Scary Man. A demon?
But what would he want with me?
But the term seems to fit. A scary name for a scary face.
I feel the sanctuary get colder, but I don’t know if it’s in my imagination or caused by something else.
The next day I tell Daddy I want to go to the library.
“Whatever for, sweetheart?” he asks, ruffling my hair. “We’ve got all the picture books you could ever need right here.”
“I’m six, Daddy,” I tell him in my best grown-up voice. “I’m too old for picture books.”
The book I want is not a picture book. I want a real book, a thick heavy book that will tell me everything I need to know. A book about demons.
There has to be a way to make him go away. There just has to be.
“I know what you are now,” I whisper into the darkness. “You’re a demon. And you want my soul.”
He’s so close to me I can hear him breathing. It’s so cold my fingers are numb and my arms are covered in goose bumps. He doesn’t answer me. He doesn’t move at all.
“What do you want?”
My voice is a faint, dry whisper. My throat is clogged with fear. I wonder if he can hear how quickly my heart is beating, like a hummingbird’s wings.
I know now that he will never go away. He will never leave me alone. The Scary Man will always be there, hidden in the darkness of my room – whatever room I’m in, whatever house, whatever city or state or country, he will always be there.
He never speaks. He doesn’t need to. I’m utterly helpless to stop him, and he knows it.
He holds out a thin-fingered, pale, dead hand, beckoning to me.
Come with me, little one.
I look into his eyes, so full of darkness and devoid of warmth, and know that I am powerless to resist.
By Shumaila Ahmad
Mrs. Roberts stared out of her horribly unclean room window as her husband hefted her suitcase and shoved it none too gently into the car. She winced as the trunk slammed closed and Mr. Roberts tapped the side of the car in impatience. It was time to leave.
After three months of therapy at the obscure clinic at the edge of the state, she was finally returning home. Returning home to her weary husband. Returning home to her uninterested daughter. Returning home to it–no. No. It didn’t exist.
Mrs. Roberts took a deep breath and pulled her lips into a wan imitation of a smile. She cringed as she shook the hand of her primary psychiatrist whose sole goal in life appeared to be to crush her fingers, and walked towards her car. Sitting in the front seat, she stared out of the passenger window as her husband attended to the first call of eight calls that he would be busy with during the four hour car ride.
It was early evening when Mrs. Roberts set foot in the house. She stood by the foot of the stairs and stared idly into the kitchen as her husband left to attend to yet another apparently important call. Mrs. Roberts had halfheartedly expected her thirteen year old daughter Allison to come out of her typically closed bedroom to greet her mother. Obviously she had expected too much. As she opened the door to Allison’s bedroom, already anticipating the lecture on her disrespect of her daughter’s supposed privacy, her eyes widened at the sight of her daughter and her friend sticking out their lips in an eerie mimicry of waterfowl. Allison’s gaze traveled to her mother in an almost bored fashion, as her phone made an appallingly loud sound as it snapped the picture. Allison Roberts opened her mouth to speak, but it was too late. Mrs. Roberts had burst into tears.
Rushing into her bedroom and closing the door behind her, Mrs. Roberts whimpered before slowly calming her irregular breathing. She closed her eyes and took in great gulps of air to steady herself while trying to remember the progress she had made in the past three months. Forcing herself to abandon her extreme uneasiness, Mrs. Roberts opened her eyes and slowly turned her attention to the desktop computer that sat innocuously near the window. She sighed and sat down at the machine, thinking about the horde of unread emails that would most likely be comprised of nameless, faceless strangers clamoring to tell her that she won a fortune (or a wife) in Zambia. She opened the browser and stared blankly at the home screen, not feeling too well, seeing but hardly comprehending. Suddenly, an eerie and horribly familiar sound filled her ears.
It was the sound. The terrifying sound of the creature itself screaming into her eardrums from the dreadfully bright computer screen. She grabbed the mouse and clicked frantically at the screen as sheer terror began to force her faculties into irrational rebellion. Her hands began to shake and the edge of the mouse soon touched the floor as it dangled limply from its wire. Mrs. Roberts’ body shuddered violently as a suffocating tightness began to spread inside her chest. Desperate, she began to claw at the keyboard. As she hammered at the key with the southward facing arrow, the page began to move down. And down. And down. And she was faced with the creature itself. Its soulless, black eyes staring straight into her being. And it was moving. Good lord, the horrific creature of her sinister nightmares was moving closer to her. And opening its mouth. And screaming.
Allison Roberts looked over at her friend who was completely engrossed with her phone, as she flipped between pictures of another girl she probably had never even talked to. Sighing, she stretched her legs and hopped out of her room as the blood flow returned to her previously asleep right leg. An incomprehensible sound was coming from her parents’ bedroom–wait, was that a scream? Gingerly taking steps on her right leg, she peered into the Master Bedroom. Her mother was nowhere to be found. The computer screen caught her attention as a commercial flashed across the right corner of the webpage. Peering closely, she jumped slightly as the white duck opened its beak to squawk: “Aflac!”
18.6 feet below, Mrs. Roberts took her last shuddering breath as the glass shard from her bedroom window dug into the back of her neck. As her mind struggled to stay alert, as her body trembled from the pain of her rough landing, she groggily attempted to remember anything that she had learned over the last three months. She had to remember something that would make her happy. Mrs. Roberts’ brain fixated on the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters. She tried to smile at the idea of the giant, almost adorable creature but could only think of his huge, hulking form awkwardly lumbering down the street. And the tall buildings of the city surrounding him, glinting almost evilly in the twilight. And one particular apartment building at the edge of the line of skyscrapers. And one unclean, almost gray window of the building. And one beady eyed duck watching her from the window.
The blackness of its eyes haunted her, growing larger and larger, as her mind hypnotically zoomed in on it.
And then the blackness took her.