“Monster on the Loose” by Marilyn Horn-Fahey

March 10, 2015

To be out of the attic for just a little while. It is all you think of, each long, lonely day. Midnight is the best time for it. By then, the doctor has finished his notes, smoked his second bowl of opium and is asleep in the armchair near the fire.

The kitchen door at the back of the house is your means of escape. It is barred with a deadbolt, but the doctor doesn’t know you have found the key and have learned to use it. Not easy to use, a key, with hands like yours, but you have practiced, and now it takes only seconds to get out.

No one appears to be out at this time, except you. Not even the three-legged cat that lives across the way, amid the broken glass and crumbling brick. Perhaps it is nursing its newest batch of kittens. You have seen the kittens through your attic window. They look like the little powdered pastries the doctor dunks in his tea.

The gas lights flicker. The street glows yellow. You move carefully, quietly, staying in the shadows, under branches of dying elms. The abandoned houses lining the street look even more forsaken than during the day. How you would love to walk in the sun! But it is unthinkable. Impossible. No one can know about you. The doctor is very clear about that.

Far down the street, where the gas lights burn bright, someone is walking. A smallish person, but one who walks with confidence. One with a job to do.

You stand against a tree and watch the person approach. A boy. A teenage boy. The worst kind of person, from what you know about the world.

The boy reaches the corner but doesn’t turn. He is close enough now that you can see his chopped yellow hair, his mouth so full of teeth he cannot seem to keep it closed. You have seen this boy before. You have seen him throw rocks at the three-legged cat. You have seen the other batch of kittens, the one before this, disappear into his burlap bag. The three-legged cat meowed as the kittens struggled and squirmed to escape and, because you could not help yourself, you began to moan, soon so loud that the boy looked up at your window high up in the attic, and the doctor ran in and gave you the draught that makes you sleep.

The boy continues toward you, burlap bag in hand. It is empty now, but not for long. You have melded yourself against the tree, lungs collapsed, until you are nearly invisible. The boy’s face glows in the light. His eyes are dark pits.

He is near you now, only feet away. He shakes open the burlap bag. It gapes black and deep, and you can smell the inside. The smell of kitten, mixed with something else. Something rotten and moldy and stale. Like water trapped in a basement.

You step away from the tree. You block the boy’s path. Your neck frill spreads wide and, before he can scream, you have sprayed him with the sticky muck that will burn him clean away. He turns and runs, wailing the wail of your mother the day she saw you. He drops the bag as the skin falls off. The charred bones blacken and collapse into a pile of dust.

The street is quiet again as you turn toward home. You bow your head, like praying. The scales on your feet shimmer silver with moonlight.

 

 

marilynhornfaheyMarilyn Horn-Fahey is a technical editor and freelance writer living in Silicon Valley. Her short stories have appeared in publications such as Marathon Review and Waterhouse Review.