It began when I woke up one morning, just before daylight lifted from the east. Something didn't feel right. When I looked around, my bedroom was ancient and decayed. I heard no ringing from Father Jeremy's bell, signaling us to come downstairs for breakfast. Normally I would hear my housemates noisily make their way down the stairs as well, but there was nothing.
My body felt heavy when I rose from my bed. There was a change to my hands, too. They were draped in cloth bandages, brown with filth, and my fingers were unnaturally long.
The door crashed forward as I turned the knob. Dust flew everywhere, and when it settled I was met with a decrepit parody of my home. Furniture was missing, and what remained was covered in barely white drapes thick with dust. The windows were boarded up. I sought answers from those whom I shared my home with, but every bedroom was empty. Percy's, Mitch's, Gabe's, all of them. Not even their beds could be found.
I descended the stairs and found the first floor entirely without furniture. The plywood lining the windows were looser than those upstairs, stained in graffiti both colorful and mischievous. I attempted to leave through the front door, only to be met with resistance and the rattle of chains on the other side. The back door was the same. I could not leave.
I neither panicked nor tried any harder to leave than my half-hearted attempts allowed. It wasn't comfortable, but it wasn't concerning either; a limbo of still anxiety that manifested nothing in me emotionally or physically. My only concern, at that moment, was about the odd features of my hands and body.
A heavy, brown coat sleeve descended both my arms, extended just past my wrist, and the wrappings that coiled my hands felt attached to them. The tips of my fingers were sharp to the touch, more like claws than anything else. When I glanced down, the coat nearly reached my boots with no buttons, zippers, or clips to speak of. I also seemed much taller than I remembered.
I first noticed the hood when I thought to feel any differences on my face. At first I was surprised. Surely, I would've noticed such a thing over my head, extended past my face as it was. Much like the rest, it felt as natural as my own skin; skin I could no longer see.
After the hood, I felt my face. I wish I could describe it as my own, but that wasn't the case. I knew not how I could see, hear, or smell, for I felt no eyes, ears, or nose. In fact, there was nothing under my hood at all. My head was missing, the contents of my clothes empty.
I was empty.
I returned to my room and sat on my bed. I only remembered that something bad happened here. I try to remember, but the only things that come to mind are noises. Teasing, mocking, crying, screaming, and then my own laughter as the previous faded into hollow echoes. My recollection of my laugh was unnerving for some reason. I was happy, yet menacingly so.
After I pondered awhile, a creak echoed from downstairs. Someone was here.
I crept down the stairs and turned my head to peek toward a window near the back of the house. Someone was prying their way in with a crowbar. I could hear several voices from beyond it. They would've been terrified by my appearance, I thought, so I hid at the top of the stairs and listened. If they were to head in my direction, I would hear them and hide myself further in.
The plywood eventually cracked open. Hands and feet climbed through the window, and again I heard their voices. One girl and two boys. From their tone, two of them seemed excited while one of the boys was terrified. He didn't want to be here. I could hardly blame him.
"We shouldn't've come," he said.
The other boy playfully slapped him on the back and encouraged they continue.
"Don't be a panz! We did it last night and nothing happened."
I wondered what exactly he meant be "it".
The girl spoke up, "Look, we'll do it again. Nothing bad's gonna happen. Promise."
Curious, I descended the stairs again for a peek. They didn't seem to notice me, so I decided to move closer. Despite having glanced in my direction with a flashlight several times, they could not see me. Eventually I was only a couple feet from them, and still they gave reaction or acknowledgement of my presence.
The girl drew a small circle between them in the dust. Afterwards, she filled it with a letter "T", then a "B" drawn from its vertical line. The two more courageous of them chanted a rhyme to the circle.
"Timmy and his Bear, Timmy and his Bear..."
They knew my name. They knew my teddy bear. But I didn't know these people.
"No one loved each other more than Timmy and his Bear..."
Something boiled inside me. What they were saying was true, but it made me angry. They shouldn't talk about my teddy bear so ridiculously. No one should. A sting clung to my core as they chanted on; the kind when one feels anger festers into a slow hatred.
"Bullies tied Timmy onto a rocking chair..."
I remembered bullies. I lived with bullies in this house for as long as I could remember. My body remembered the burning sensation of those ropes, too.
"And when they broke his Bear..."
They hurt my teddy bear. No one hurts my teddy bear. I loved him. He loved me. No one loved me as much as my teddy bear did. In fact, no one loved me at all before he came.
"Timmy bled them everywhere!"
As part of their ritual, the two of them forced a simultaneous scream. The timid one didn't take part, but the others must have done this before. The rhyme was irritating, but the scream at the end did something more to me. A pulse rippled through my body like a loud heartbeat.
Seconds later, as the one boy explained a second time there was nothing to fear, his sight fixed directly at me. All color drained from his face, his eyes widened, and his lips trembled before letting out a genuine shriek. I wish he didn't do that. I learned a terrible thing in that moment: I get hungry when people scream.
Before I could think about it, both claws dug deep in his chest. Something about the frozen trauma on his face was so appetizing, so I lowered myself closer to him. My hood enveloped his entire head, there was a crunch, and I lifted my face away. His head was gone, blood spewing from his vacant neck like a tantalizing fountain.
Memories flooded my mind that weren't my own, but his. His whole life flashed before me in a blink. Such a waste, such a bully. His parents didn't deserve his spite, yet he was an angry child anyway. There was a gift within him, though. An artist, great with paint and quite imaginative. His pain would've made for good inspiration.
The girl screamed at the sight of her friend's decapitation before noticing me on the other side of his corpse. She tried to run, but tripped on nothing in her panic. It dawned on me, if only for a brief second, how I must not appear human anymore. But I didn't care. She looked too delicious to think of anything else.
I simultaneously pulled both her arms from her body. I squeezed them above my head, pouring their blood into my hood like guzzling from a goblet. By the time they stopped flowing, she was already dead in a pool of blood.
Her memories pervaded my thoughts as well. She belonged to a truly abusive family. She's better off without them, dead or otherwise. She was always trying to fill a void with boys, gossip, make-up, and so on. AS foolish as it was for her to come here, her academic skills were genius. A smart girl, even if her common sense betrayed her. Trying to impress the now headless boy must have done that to her.
That left only the reluctant boy, too petrified at the sudden dismemberment of his friends to scream or move. He stared at their corpses, unable to see me. I did not feel compelled to eat him, but I couldn't let him leave to tell the world about this. A hefty backhand ensured his unconsciousness. I decided to contemplate his fate later, so I dragged him to one of the empty bedrooms upstairs.
I was confused as to why I did what I did as I paced back and forth in my bedroom. My chest sank with pity for them. They weren't the best, but they weren't the worst either. They were just children, seeking a thrill. Frustrated, I yanked and crushed a plank from my window. What I saw outside chilled my inhuman body to its empty core.
Pillars of blackness, tall and thin, crawled along the horizon. Shadowy smoke trailed behind them as they followed each other. From where I stood, they were as drawn lines of ink that connected the earth to the orange-tinted sky. They marched slowly, always the same distance from each other. When I stared long enough at one, I could barely discern a pair of vertical eyes at its pinnacle. It was watching me. They were watching me.
They sang in low whispers, forbidding I leave this place. I looked down through my window so as to plot an escape, but I witnessed the ground outside sink into an endless void as if only to prove them right. I wished to move on, but I couldn't while here. Memories of what I've done came back to me as I stared off at those towering watchers. I did horrible things out of anger and misery in life, things I wish I didn't.
A loneliness set in I thought long forgotten. My teddy bear wouldn't let me stay like this. He would've been here for me, gave me comfort, held me as tight as I held him. That's why he was the world to me. That's why I did what I did to those bullies. No one does that to my teddy bear.
I know he must be out there, somewhere. I need to find my teddy bear. He'll make me feel better; he always does.
I returned to the bedroom where I left the boy survivor. He was still breathing. Poor child, asleep in the presence of a monster. I gave him a pat on the head for comfort. It wasn't much, but there was nothing else I could do. When I pulled my claw away, an invisible tug shot between my palm and his head.
I saw through his memories in that instant. He was a writer, and a creative one at that. In his life I witnessed loneliness, tears, and a desire for escape. Yet, there was a world within his world. His genius shined in it, his mind endlessly sculpting entire worlds, peoples, heroes, villains, and the like with even the faintest spark of inspiration. He was a good kid, too. Well behaved, considerate, and honest. I even saw, through his eyes, the moments which I devoured his friends. I knew he couldn't see me still, but I could see me. I was far from anything human. I was a monster; a ravenous, murderous, despicable thing.
His eyes sprang open, to which I took a step back from surprise. He wasn't moving, and his eyes were vacant. I tilted my head at him, confused. His head tilted in unison, albeit while still prone on the floor. I raised my right arm. He raised his right arm, too.
I asked him to walk to the corner of the room, and so he did. I could control his movements, even tell him what to do. For a moment I thought about what this could mean for me, and for the first time in apparent ages I felt a glimmer of hope skip through my hollow being.
My first intentional instruction was to find a way to communicate with the world outside. He rose from the corner of the room, shambled down the stairs and left the house. I was unsure if it worked until he returned a few hours later.
He returned with a device I'd never seen before. It was flat, square, and opened to reveal a screen on one half and an odd arrangement of letters and numbers on the other. Apparently it could send a message to others on the outside, so I asked him to write what I would write as if I knew how the thing worked.
So, to those reading this: My name is Timmy, and I am in desperate need of your help. The towering shadows won't let me leave. My home is Saint John's Orphanage, also called the Ghoulburn Boys Orphanage, in New South Wales. Please release me from this place so I can go find my teddy bear. In return, I'll let this boy go. He's a bright kid with a bright future, but I don't know what else to do. But whoever you are, whenever you get here, and however you help, just remember one thing:
Please, don't scream.
Written by Michael Angelo Yacone