Simon had a giddy feeling in his stomach and a broad smile on his face as he stood there waiting on the welcome mat. The cardboard box in his arms was shaking slightly, but he held it as still as he could.
He heard footsteps, and then the door swung open.
“Simon! You got here quickly! What happened? You sounded excited…” said Anne, eyeing him curiously. She held open the covering her phone’s mouthpiece with one hand. As he walked into the entrance hall she mouthed “Dad”, motioning towards the phone.
Simon had to wait a long while till she was done talking to her father for her to finally notice the box.
“Well… you know how you said you loved dogs…” he said, placing the box down. She looked down at box, back at him and then back at the box. Her eyes widened with realization and she jumped down to her knees to open it. She let out an excited scream as she lifted the pug out. The warmest smile appeared on her face as she cuddled the pug and kissed it. And then, without warning, she putting the pug back down in the box, got up, and grabbed him by the scruff, giving him a kiss.
“This is the best gift ever! Thank you!”
Simon was just happy to see her happy again. Just a month ago she had been crying her eyes out, her head in his lap. The weeks that followed were not really an improvement, and it did not help that her dad had to go away on a trip to the South American rainforests.
He followed her into the lounge where he sat on a comfortable sofa, looking at Anne playing with her new pet. It was a warm, comfortable room, filled with comfortable sofas, cushions and… pictures of Anne with her pets.
Anne was what you could call an unlucky girl. She had a tragic life, and completely horrible luck when it came to pets. He had been with her for five months and though he had grown to love her, the incidents with her pets were something that always gnawed at him. During their five month relationship she had lost a cat, a parrot, several fishes and a whole family of hamsters. And that was not the end of it, as the pictures reminded him.
From what she told him, it had been like this ever since she turned 16. She had been walking their family dog close to the woods at the back of her house and he had run off into them. She had gone in after it and gotten lost. The whole town had been about searching for her late into the night. They were lucky that the full moon was out; they would never have found her in the dark. When they found her, though, she was sitting sobbing beside her dog’s body mutilated body. She had no memory of the entire episode.
Afterwards, she had gotten a new pet and something weird happened to it again. And this continued in a cycle. She would get a pet, and she would lose it. She would mourn it, her parents would rush to get her a new pet, and then the cycle would repeat itself. She had lost around 5 cats, all of them dead or missing, and one of them even just ‘drowned itself’ according to her. Apart from that she had also lost 2 dogs, with one being lost to a car accident and another to hunters accidentally shooting it. She had lost too many birds, hamsters and fishes to disappearances to remember. The tragedies had been compounded by the loss of her mother around a year ago. But still, she maintained a positive outlook on life.
He had still found all of it to be quite unsettling. She called it her ‘curse’ and even though they laughed about it now and again, the knowledge just sat at the back of his mind and refused to go away, like a persistent itch. And he knew that she worried about it too, from the look she had on her face after they were done laughing.
At first he suspected that maybe she was just careless with her pets. She definitely loved pets, that much was apparent. But maybe she just wasn’t responsible enough to care for one. But this proved to be untrue as well. She was very dutiful and caring. Her last parrot, Harold, and the cat, Harvey, had always been clean and well-groomed, until their respective disappearance and drowning at least. He knew if for a fact that she used spent quite a lot of time caring for them.
He sat lost in these thoughts when she interrupted him. She had placed the pug in his lap and it promptly put its feet on his shoulder and started licking his face. Laughing, he hugged the pug and looked at her. She looked pensive.
“What’s the matter?” he asked.
“Nothing… just wondering what we should name him”
“Er… How about Harry?”
“Why Harry?” she asked.
“Well, I just thought… that it would go with Harvey and Harold”
She gave him a teary smile and then looked at the pug lovingly. “Harry. I like it. Thank you for bringing Harry to me, Simon.”
They went about talking about what sort of bed they should set up for Harry. Harry himself seemed quite excited for his new home and chased them around the house wagging his tail. By the time it was dark, Simon was exhausted.
“Well, it’s dark. I should be heading back now.” he said.
“You… don’t have to go” she said shyly.
Simon’s heart skipped a beat. Anne had never asked him to stay over. And he had never been alone with her for too long in any case, since her dad was always around chaperoning them. He had been away for a little over two weeks now, though. Maybe, it was the lack of contact with him, or maybe Anne just felt lonely, but this was the first time Anne had invited him to stay over. He was still wondering about what had come over her when she bent down, gave him another kiss and puts both her hands on his face.
“I love you.”
“I— I love you too, Anne” he said, surprised. This was the first time she had confessed her love to him. That night was the first time in his life anything so wonderful had happened to him.
Simon felt like he was floating. Everything looked more beautiful all of a sudden. The stars were gleaming like bright gems. The full moon was out, displaying it radiance. And Anne was constantly blushing.
They were up talking till about midnight. Anne was too exhausted from the day so she fell asleep quickly. Simon went downstairs, watching TV with Harry in his lap, and still happy in his core when the phone rang.
He hesitated. It was late at night and he was not sure what her dad or relatives would make of him being there that late. But on the other hand, Anne was completely exhausted and he did not want to wake her. He considered letting the phone ring, but in the end he hesitantly picked it up.
“Yes. Is it the home of Miss Annabelle Long?” said a very official sounding voice.
“Yes, it is”
“Can I speak to Miss Annabelle, please?”
“No, she is uh… sleeping at the moment. I will be happy to take your message though.” He turned from the phone to quiet Harry, who had begun barking.
“Ok…” said the man “I am Alejandro Nunez from the embassy in Brazil. I …” he hesitated.
“Quiet, Harry! Pardon me…Yes? You were saying?” he urged him, concerned. His mind was racing. Anne’s dad was in Brazil.
“I am sorry to inform you that Mr. Andrew Long has passed away…”
Simon’s heart thumped in his chest. “What do you mean…”
“I am sorry, I realize this is a shock, but it was important that I informed you of the circum—“
“But he can’t …”
“The Civil police found Mr. Long’s body around two days ago. I am sorry it has taken this long to inform his family, but… unfortunately the body were quite hard to identify in its…condition.”
Simon mind was reeling from all the information. He did not know what to say.
“The body was found in a water body and forensics indicated that he had been deceased for around two weeks. I am sorry, the embassy—”
“This can’t be right.” Simon interjected. The man on the phone was clearly mistaken. “Anne was talking to him only this morning. I’m sorry but you must have–”
“I’m sorry but there is no mistake. I realize this is a shock but—“
Simon did not care for the rest of the story. He had let the phone drop on the floor. His heart was not thumping anymore, but had suddenly gone deathly quiet as a cold shiver ran through him. His legs began trembling uncontrollably under him; he had finally noticed what Harry had been barking at, and he dared not blink for fear of what it might do.
He was looking straight out through the kitchen window, into the backyard where a pale white face was staring right back at him.
The creature the face belonged to was like nothing he had ever seen. He was tall, if indeed it was a he, emaciated, and milky white. He was, in fact, so tall that he was bent down with both hands against the window to be able to look into the house. He face was gaunt and his skin stretched. There were two hollow black sockets each gaping wide where his eyes and ears were supposed to be. But the most menacing part of his appearance was his smile; he had a wide, wicked smile on his face that displayed his crooked, onyx-black teeth, and gave him the impression of a child looking into his favourite doll-house.
Simon was frozen on his feet and his legs refused to move. His voice was struck in his throat and though he wanted to shout, all the breath had left his lungs. He wished it was not real, that the thing staring at him would just go away, but he did not. Instead, he put one of his hands into the tiny opening in the window and, right in front of Simon’s horrified eyes, stretched itself like a snake, growing thin, and then returning to his original form inside the kitchen. Simon gasped and fell back on the sofa with a silent scream. The creature approached him, taking long strides, in the likeness of a child sneaking about a house. He never stopped smiling even for a moment.
He came close and stood tall above Simon looking down at him with his smile. Harry was whimpering, and had buried his face in the sofa. This had to be the end, Simon though. He wanted to close his eyes but found himself quiet unable to do so. What happened after made him wish a hundred times over that he could. The creature picked Harry up and held him in front of Simon’s face. And then, quietly and efficiently, and still smiling his manic grin, he pushed a hand into Harry’s mouth. Simon watched, eyes open wide with shock, as the creature slowly pushed itself into Harry. As he did so, Harry stretched, like a weird balloon being blown, first at the hind legs and then at the front ones. The creature did this till only his head remained out of Harry, with the poor pug’s face stretched over the creature’s neck. It looked like the creature was wearing a grotesque, hairy suit.
Simon had finally found his voice. The creature, hearing him, bent down so his face was close to Simon’s. He moved his hollow ear socket close to Simon as if listening to what he had to say.
“D-Don’t kill me, please” Simon whispered, short of breath.
The creature turned his head and faced Simon again, still smiling broadly.
“One moon, one life. I will come for you on the next moon” he said, in a silky, clever voice that managed to surprise Simon even in his predicament.
“But–but why?” he said, gasping for breath.
“She loves you, does she not. By that right, your soul is mine”
Simon was confused… what did he mean? All he knew was that he did not want to die.
“But I don’t wanna die. I don’t wanna… please!! I don’t wanna die!!” he was pleading now, crying.
“Oh child, but we all die, one day. We all die, or become as I am. But, I can offer you a lease. The same lease I offered her parents.”
Simon was silent now. He had suddenly remembered Anne’s dad, who was now dead.
“Yes, of course. She loved them more than anyone else, didn’t she now… Yess… she did”. The creature’s grin widened and then he smacked his lips. “Fools. You could never have run too far. I have them now. Will you run, child?”
“N-N-No… please, I don’t want die”
“Then open your pretty little ears, and listen. I will grant you a lease, but you must understand… One moon, one life… yesss.”.The creature looked to the roof as if relishing the thought. “To leave one she loves alone, I must have another. Far more than these lives, I love her tears”
The creature stood back up after saying that. He sniffed, smelling something in the air, and then turned to leave.
Simon understood. He finally understood it all. But the view of Harry being… stretched… was still fresh in his memory. And so was the teary face of the girl he loved. He could not do that. He would not.
“I can’t do it… I will not make her suffer…I WILL NOT DO IT!” he said.
The creature turned back to face him with the speed of a lunging viper. He lowered his face, no longer smiling but contorted with rage, and brought it within an inch of Simon’s.
“Then the suffering of a painful death is yours.” he whispered and grabbed Simon by the shoulders.
Simon froze, again. He suddenly realized he had pushed his luck too far… too far. He sat there frozen in fear as the creature opened his mouth wider and wider, and wider. There was nothing but a void inside him. The void was the last thing he saw as the world, and his memories, faded from consciousness.
The very last thing he heard, perhaps just his imagination, was:
“I will take from her everything that she loves”
Original story by
Salman Shahid Khan
Copyright : : Salman Shahid Khan. All Rights Reserved