Jenny Hanivers. That’s what they were called. These stingrays that had been carved and dried looked so much more gruesome than I would have expected. They were being made for centuries, but I had never really heard of them. Apparently, they were used in the 16th century to trick people into believing that demons exist, and very effectively, may I add.
When I found out about them, I immediately thought that I could use one to finally beat my dick of a neighbor in the Halloween decoration competition. Year after year, I would scour the web and buy the most disturbing, fucked up things that I could find in order to give me an edge, but he had money backing him. Because of that, I would consistently get second place. “This time...” I thought, “This time Jared will pay.” A sick grin grew on my face as I dropped a couple hundred dollars on it without hesitation. Despite the price, I had a feeling that this would finally bring the results I was looking for.
I fully admit that this behavior was a little bit obsessive for what would ordinarily be such a trivial matter, and looking back, we could have saved ourselves a lot of grief by just shutting up and living with it. However, over the course of several years, my rivalry with him grew into a hatred of his lavish lifestyle. My family and I had been living across the street from this buffoon for years. We had worked our asses off to live as comfortably as we did, and to watch some trust fund baby play loud music, constantly brag about his cars, and have different women in his house every night was just disgusting to us. All of us were bitter, even my young daughter, who he had kept up at night with his loud music and… fornication, which penetrated all of our soundproofing efforts. Previously, we even tried talking to the HOA about it, but you know how they are. He paid them extra, so they kept turning a blind eye to his obvious infractions. Just trust me, if you were in my shoes, I have a feeling you would understand the anger we all felt. I knew that if I could win just once, I could see the shock on his face. I could see him realize that not everything in the world is just given to people, and hard workers will prevail over arrogant, lazy slobs like him.
That brings us to October 1st, 2019. This was the date the box arrived, and the date that this whole mess started. After opening the box, my daughter, Olivia, was surprisingly less scared of it than my wife, Kate. Olivia was more fascinated by it than anything. The Jenny Haniver came with instructions to hang it up and some general upkeep tips. It was all pretty much what you would expect, but the last tip was apparently very important. The text, over twice as large and bolded, stated: “DO NOT PLACE IN WATER!” I thought that this was to be expected. Drying was just a part of the preservation process. If it were to somehow rehydrate, it would probably start to smell like shit, and that would be a good two hundred bucks down the drain.
I’m not completely sure why, but Olivia really loved this thing that she named Herbert. She would play with it like a doll, and even sleep with it. Sometimes, she asked to take a bath with it, but Kate and I told her that she shouldn’t because it might ruin it. One day, she wanted to take Herbert to show and tell, which we allowed if she was careful with it. Apparently all of the other kids in the class and the teacher ran out screaming, and she was sent home. Even though she got in trouble, I didn’t mind. That day confirmed that the Jenny Haniver would bring the exact reaction we wanted out of people. We continued the month as normal, and word began to spread around about such a terrifying object.
Then came October 30th, the day before the contest. We didn’t want to show our full hand before the competition, so we decided not to hang it up until Halloween. That being said, we were also afraid that Olivia would accidentally break it right before, so we hid it in a closet for the day. She was upset that she couldn’t play with it, but she seemed to understand. Until the day ended, she finally started asking a lot of questions about it.
“Dad, what is Herbert?”
“Herbert’s a dried stingray, sweetie.”
“Where did you get him? Why are kids so scared of him?”
“I bought him online, he was supposed to be a Halloween decoration. We were actually really surprised that you weren’t scared of him to begin with.”
“Why can’t I put him in water?”
“He’s dried and pretty old, he’ll probably start to smell bad if we do that.”
“Why does he ask me to bring him in the tub then?”
This question definitely threw me off a little. But you know kids and their imaginations, always running wild and creating friends with things like stuffed animals. I responded about as seriously as any parent would.
“Ha ha ha, maybe he’ll come to life or something. I don’t know.”
We all went to bed early that night because we knew we would be decorating the house all day on Halloween. Around midnight, I was awakened to a scream coming from the bathroom. As I rushed to the bathroom, I noticed the closet door was open, and I immediately thought I knew what happened. However, when I opened the door, the last thing I expected to see was that THING trying to pull my daughter into the water with its tail, which had become more like a tentacle.
“KATE, GET THE GUN!”
The thing had kept its disgusting pale color, although now it was very slimy to the touch. I could tell that this was not just a disfigured stingray anymore, but something completely different. I attempted to rip that thing’s tail away from my daughter, but it was unnaturally strong. It hissed at me and tried to bite me. When Kate arrived with the gun, I immediately shot the tail to free Olivia. Pushing her away from the thing, it thrashed about and let out a horrific screech as I unloaded the rest of my magazine into it.
When it finally stopped moving, we took a moment to collect ourselves, and then thought of how we would get rid of it. It definitely smelled as bad as I thought it would. I decided that despite the horrible experience and the bullet holes it had, I would hang it up right away just to get it outside. If we had gone through this much with it, we might as well have gotten some use out of it. When I walked onto my porch, police officers arrived. They told me that neighbors told them to look into some gunshots that came from my house. I held up the thing, smiling, and just said “It’s okay, officers, just a little monster in the house. You can come in if you’d like.” One searched the place as the other watched me hang up the little Eldritch Horror beast that was my Jenny Haniver.
“Uh sir, what the hell is that thing?” The officer asked with a hand on his taser.
“It’s called a Jenny Haniver. It’s just a disfigured stingray, really.”
“Why the hell did you even buy that thing?”
“I thought it would be a good Halloween decoration.”
The officer and I continued to talk while the other finished up his search. Of course, everyone was okay, if not a little bit shaken. They left without any problems, but then we tried to go back to sleep. For obvious reasons, that wasn’t working out for any of us, so we all gathered at the dining room table to talk about it while having some snacks.
“Hey Olivia, was that thing actually talking to you?”
“What kind of things did it say?” asked Kate.
“He wanted me to take a bath with him.” She croaked out as she began to cry.
I threw up in my mouth. After excusing myself, I went to the bathroom. There, I splashed water on my face, pinched myself, slapped myself in the face repeatedly, and forced my eyes open and closed; I did everything I could to convince myself that this wasn’t happening while my wife was consoling Olivia. When I sat back down, my mind was still racing.
“I’m sorry for putting you all through this,” I said.
“It’s okay dad, you couldn’t have known!”
“I probably shouldn’t have encouraged playing with a dead animal anyway.”
“Even though it was a little weird, I can see why you did, honey. She seemed like she was having a good time. Come on, Olivia, let’s try to get some sleep. Tomorrow’s going to be a big day.” replied Kate.
Only then were we able to get some sleep. The next morning, the thing was gone. I didn’t really know what to think about that, but good riddance I guess. We didn’t even feel like putting up decorations that day. The following year, we sold all of the Halloween decorations we had accumulated over the years so we could afford to move to a calmer place. Here there was no Jared. Here there was no possibility of that thing finding us. Here we could live in peace. Sometimes, though, I still think back to the incident and wonder what the fuck happened to that thing.