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“Hey, man, where ya been?” asked George, he’s one of my friends.

“Teacher forgot about lunch apparently,” I said. My name is Logan, by the way. I sat down with my tray at the circle table with my friends, George, Leo, Alex and Dylan. We’re all juniors in high school. We live in Columbus, Ohio. We’re pretty nice to each other; we always stick up for one another whenever we’re faced with adversity. I don’t know what I’d ever do without these guys. Actually, since we’re such good friends and feel perfectly safe when around one another we’d find ourselves doing silly little rituals… y’know, like the Bloody Mary thing.

Before any of us could ever finish saying her name three times one of us would end up screaming loudly and giving the rest of the group a heart attack, haha. We’d also find ourselves reading up on strange mysteries and legends just so we could have something fun to do. We’d go to the library after we got done eating our lunch and go to the “fiction” section and read up on the legends that society deemed as hoaxes. With the short amount of time that we had, we skimmed through the pages of different books and tried to take in as much information as possible. We only do this once every couple of days. We planned to do it again today.

We all ate our food as quickly as we could and hoped that no problems would occur from that. We’d wait on everyone else to finish and then we’d head off down to the library. When we got down there we immediately flocked towards the fiction section and tried to look for a book that we haven’t read yet. Rather quickly, I found a book called “The Scratches.” I called my friends over to have them take a look at it and they seemed quite intrigued. We all gathered around a table and began to skim through the pages. We came across some interesting things.

We read that the creature was once a man and he had a strange obsession with his own body. That seemed a bit odd to us. Even odder was the fact that the book didn’t give many details on the appearance of the creature. It just told us its origin and what happened to it and that was it. Just before we were about to close the book and call this a failure, I found something on the next page. It said that the man loved to hear his wife play a very specific song on the piano, one that his wife created on her own. The man was always drawn to its unorthodox melody and would immediately go to the piano and immerse himself in the sound. It said that the song went from happy to moderately eerie and back to happy. It also said that for the most part the sheets to the song were missing but they were recovered and a picture was taken of them before time got rid of it. It was of only a couple lines.

“You’re a piano player, right, Logan?” Dylan asked.

“Yeah, I should be able to play this with ease!” I responded.

“Maybe the creepy man will come for you… and then… DEMAND FOR KISSES!” Leo exclaimed. We all laughed. Leo was always the comedian of the group. I took a quick picture of the recovered sheets. I read on a little bit more and found out that when his wife died he was trying to create a gas that would be forced into her body and it would travel through her and hopefully restore whatever had gone wrong. But unfortunately for him, the gas escaped the jar that it was contained in and it ended up being a complete failure and transforming him into a schizophrenic and careless man, that is, with anything else that happened to him in his life. He was never seen again. Bit cliché of an ending, yeah, but it was still really strange.

“Well, we ought to try this then! You guys want to come to my house tonight around 10:30? My parents aren’t gonna be home at that time.” Everyone agreed at that time. I closed the book, returned it to its location and headed back to class.

For the rest of the day I kept on thinking about The Scratches… such an interesting tale.

After I returned home, I got my phone out and opened up the picture I snapped while in the library. I contemplated playing the song at that very moment, with the sun nice and bright in the sky and while my parents were still in the house. I decided against this; however I did choose to play a couple notes from it. I set my phone down in front of me on my grand piano (which was very old, by the way, I’m surprised it still sounds perfectly fine) and looked over the sheet. It took me a couple minutes to prepare myself, but once I had enough of it memorized I began to play, slowly.

The first five notes were rather unsettling. They didn’t seem to fit in any melody that could be created, but yet it was still mesmerizing. I felt so intrigued by the melody that I kept on playing. But before I could play the entire thing, I snapped back to reality and stopped myself from playing the next notes. At that same moment my dad walked by and asked me,

“Where the devil did you learn that?”

“Y’know, from a little fiction book I found at the library,” I responded. “Just wanted to see what it would sound like.”

“Sounds like some demented psycho’s lullaby.” I chuckled a bit at my dad’s remark. I then waited for my parents to finally leave. I forgot to mention beforehand that my parents are actually looking for better jobs right now; their current jobs don’t pay too well.

I said goodbye to my parents for the night and when they left the house and I saw their car drive away, I immediately began to call all my friends and told them to meet me at my house as soon as possible.

My friends arrived quickly. When we’re about to do some sort of ritual they drive here as quickly as they can. I sometimes wonder if they’ll get a ticket for driving so fast at some point.

They soon arrived at around 10:30PM, when the darkness is at its optimum point. I told my friends to wait at the lobby as I turned off all the lights in the house except for the lamp next to my piano. I told them it adds to the fear. When I finally came back to the lobby of my house, I saw that Leo’s ecstatic smile had turned into a nervous one. Leo was a very funny guy, but got quite nervous whenever we’d do these things. Sometimes we worry if he’ll suffer a heart attack at some point. We walked over to my piano and gathered around the small light that my lamp provided. I turned on my phone and looked at the sheet again. I told them to get ready to hear the most demented melody in the world. I put my hands upon the piano and played the song. Even though I couldn’t see their faces, I could hear some of my friend’s breathing patterns becoming… faster, especially Leo’s.

I kept playing the melody. By now my own heart was beginning to pound harder and faster. I was getting a bit nervous myself. I could also feel my hands beginning to tremble.

When I hit the last note, we stood in dark silence. I knew that all of us expected someone to jump out and scare us all, but no one ever did.

“Yeesh, this was a waste of time,” Dylan said. “I’m gonna go get a coke.” Dylan walked out of the room and into the kitchen nearby. He turned on the lights in the kitchen. The rest of us stayed in the same room as my piano and just talked about what this could have turned out to be, or maybe why nothing happened. We came up with logical explanations, such as the sound coming from the piano was nowhere near loud enough to attract anything, and how the chances of the man in the book being near this location were so microscopically low.

As we continued to argue about different explanations, we heard Dylan gasp very loudly and heard his Coke can drop into the sink. I immediately stood up and quickly walked over to him to see what was going on. With a trembling hand and nothing but noises from his mouth, he pointed through the window down the road. What I saw made my heart stop. I saw a tall, silhouetted figure slowly making its way down the road to us. I saw a big chunk of black in the middle, and on the sides I saw figures of arms and long thin strips that stretched down to the ground from the hands. I had no idea what I was looking at. Then I realized how close it was. It was only about 15 meters away.

“Oh shit,” I exclaimed. “Turn off the damn lights! Turn them off now!”

“Why the hell would we—” George protested. “Turn off the god damn lights!” George instantly turned them off. Dylan was still trembling in fear. I grabbed him and pulled him down so he wasn’t in vision of the window. I told George, Leo and Alex to gather around and try not to panic. I was originally going to call the police but then I realized something horrifying. My cell phone is on the grand piano which is near a window, and through that window the thing could see us. I also realized the kitchen phone is on the wall and it’s in view of the window. I was too nervous now. We all sat with our backs to the drawers and listened to our fast breathing patterns fill the deafening silence.

A couple minutes passed. Our breathing was still fast and loud but not as much as before. We were finally beginning to relax. But then we began to hear a slow and terrifying, “screeee… screeee… screeee…” against the door to my house. We all panicked. We knew that the creature was outside that door and now it was trying to make its way in. This seemed like the end for us. We all shook uncontrollably against the cabinets. We had no idea what we were going to do. We were hearing that dreadful scratching against the door in the middle of the night. It was one of those moments where you question reality. I mean it was incomprehensible as to what was happening right now! In a moment of weakness we all put our heads down and cupped our legs together and held ourselves tight. Nothing to do now.

The scratching persisted for a while. Then suddenly, it stopped. The last scratch ended up being a long “screeeeeeeeee” and then cutting off completely. We began to calm down a little bit. No one sat up or said anything; we worried that the monster may still be there. Then somehow I gathered the courage to slowly stand up and walk to the door. My friends stayed clutching themselves and shaking and didn’t bother to look up at me. I stood on my tip toes until I had a good view from the windows in the door. I didn’t see anything. I looked to the left and then to the right. Nothing there. I let out a potentially premature sigh but I was just happy not to see or hear it anymore. I told my friends that the creature was gone, injecting them with the blind hope that I had. They stopped clenching themselves and got up. I could see by their expressions that they had just endured the most terrifying moment of their lives. We could all see it in all of our faces. I offered them a stay at my house for the night up in my bedroom if they wished. None of them wanted to stay, and I understood. Strange at the same time, though; as the monster could be lurking around the neighborhood somewhere and might catch them. God, I’ve never felt more like a child.

I waved to my friends and said goodbye as they staggered out the door. I stood in my doorway and made sure that they all left without any trouble. Luckily, they all did. With a small sense of dread, I went upstairs and went to sleep. I was haunted by thoughts of what just happened, including a nightmare. It was a horrible, horrible night. I was able to rest somewhat easy that night. Lucky for me I rarely remember my dreams so I did not endure one about that demon.

Tomorrow felt so… dead. When I walked into the commons and saw everyone talking with their friends and having the time of their lives I couldn’t help but feel alone. My friends weren’t in the commons like the normally would be, they may have headed right to class and could be sitting in their chairs just thinking about what happened last night. I decided to do that. I, at least tried, to casually walk to my 1st period English class. It was hard because I knew that I had a melancholic expression on my face, frozen like that. I could see in my peripheral vision people looking at me with an odd look. I didn’t bother with them.

The rest of the day was depressing. Everyone else was laughing with the teachers and having a good ol’ time as usual but I was just sitting there, depressingly doing the work that the teachers assigned us. When Lunch rolled around, I entered the room and saw my friends huddled in a group near the front of the line. They saw me enter the room and held a stare for at least five seconds. They slowly turned their heads away from me. I could tell that they didn’t want to talk much but I walked over to them anyway. They turned around to look at me again and looked away once again. We got our food and sat down at one of the round tables in the corner of the cafeteria. We ate in silence as everyone else proceeded to laugh and socialize. I could tell that people were staring at us, having our backs hunched forward and our emotionless faces. I decided to speak up.

“So, we gonna talk about last night?” I said in a weak tone. I saw Leo and Dylan shiver. Alex and George just looked at me with a gloomy face. George was the first to respond.

“We’re still a bit messed up from the experience,” he said. I heard a small whimpering voice from the other side of the table. It was Leo’s.

“Why did we even do that? I know we like to do these things but we’ve never actually had anything bad happen to us!” Leo said. “We could have died there! The scratches… oh, God, no, the scratches… Did I tell you guys about what I found this morning?” We were all intrigued. We said no and Leo told us about his experience.

“Well, when I woke up a small part of my bed felt slightly wet for some reason. I lifted myself off of my bed and saw a small area of the blue covers was darker than the rest of the bed. I then realized that my neck felt a bit wet, too. I put my hand against it and I felt a sharp pain there. I rushed over to the bathroom, turned myself around and strained to see what was on my neck. I saw these small scratches of red going down my neck. In fact, if you look right now you should still see them…” George was sitting right beside Leo so he decided to take a look.

“Oh my god,” George exclaimed. I could see the fear grow in his eyes. “Leo… that’s…”

“Horrifying, yeah, I know…” Leo responded in a dark tone.

“Leo, why do you sound so calm? I mean, scared, but just not panicking?”

“I’m pretty sure that this is how I’m going to die. Might as well not try to fight it…” I got pissed off at that.

“Dude, Leo, pessimism takes you down the wrong path!”

“Pessimism? PESSIMISM?! You think this is pessimism? What about realism? What about that little feeling of dread deep inside you that you know you’re going to die? I’m not being pessimistic anymore, Logan, I’m being realistic.” We all looked at Leo with shocked faces. I was going to pull a generic, “We can make it through this!” but I began to feel the same fear and darkness that he felt. We angered some sort of demon and now it wants us… and it’s going to tear us all apart all because of that goddamn song that I played on my stupid piano. I then thought of something I could do. I took my phone out, hid it under the table (just so the lunch supervisors don’t see it) and went and deleted the sheet music that I got from the book. I then put my phone back in my pocket and looked up to my friends. I then thought up of something insane. I said,

“You know what we could do? We could take the book from the library, take it back to my house, start a fire in the fireplace and throw it in there to make sure that the memories of it never remain.”

“In other words, vandalism?” Dylan asked. “That’s stupid, the school will be on your ass about it.”

“I know; that’s why I also thought that we could just move to a different city or something.”

“Move to a different city?” Alex protested. He put his head down again and then said: “Actually, that doesn’t sound like a bad idea. I don’t want to be here. The monster could track us down again.”

“You guys can’t be serious, you know that there’s no hope for us.” Leo said. I was surprised when Leo said that.

“Out of everyone here, Leo, I never expected YOU to protest. You’re the one that was the most scared, you know that!”

“Yeah, and because of it I can’t bear the thought of leaving my parents in hope that the demon will go away! I might as well be under the embrace of my parents if I’m going to die!”

“Well, there’s no way to hide here! I’m going to leave before he comes back. Who’s with me?” Dylan and Alex raised their hands.

“Least I have some sane friends,” I said quietly. After I said that I kind of wished that Leo and George didn’t hear me. “Anyway, we’re going to take the book from the library and burn it, and then we’re moving away.” George and Leo tried to keep me from doing that, but I was set on this.

After we got done eating, Dylan and Alex went to their classes and I went straight to the library and checked out the book. Ugh, it felt disgusting in my hand. Yet, at the same time, it felt perfect for burning, almost like it was designed for it.

Once school finally ended (which felt like it took forever) I drove back to my house. My parents weren’t home as usual. I opened the door and entered my house. It felt completely lifeless. There were no lights on, just the sun’s rays shining through the windows which created a sense of serenity and creepiness. I took the book out of my backpack. I was going to just throw it into the fireplace but I tried to think of other methods of disposing it without seeming too conspicuous if my parents came home at some unexpected time. I climbed the stairs slowly. The creaking sounded like nails on a chalkboard in the darkness. When I finally got to my room, I found my dog cowering in the corner of my room. It was whimpering like never before.

“Hey… I was wondering where you were…” I said. I then realized where it was looking. I could feel an expression of terror crawl across my face as I turned my head to my closet. My closet was right beside my door which can be a terrible place at times.

With a shaking hand, I reached for the closet handle and slowly pulled it back. I flipped on the light switch. What I saw, I’ll never forget. I saw long, thin scratches along my white wall. I looked down to the floor and saw all my shirts completely ripped in half, completely torn apart. I lost it at that point. I said “screw it” to that room. I took my book, shut the door and locked it behind me, trapping my dog in there.

Oh god, oh why did I do that? What am I doing? Why should I sacrifice an innocent life to save my own? Who am I? No, no, stay focused. I calmed myself down and descended back down the stairs. Knowing that I’d never go back to the room I went to my fireplace and immediately threw the book in there…

Thoughts bombarded me about whether there might be grave ramifications that come from this or not. Never mind that. I indulged myself in the wonderful sound of burning paper. I will forever remember this sound as the day that I sent away that dreadful creature.

But suddenly I heard a muffled slam outside my house. I was instantly terrified. I was just thinking about grave ramifications a minute ago, they can’t have come true! My hearing seems to have doubled by now. I could hear the silent footsteps on the grass outside my house above the savage flames devouring the book. The melancholic atmosphere didn’t help at all, either. My heart reached that stage of horror I felt when I saw the monster for the first time. I felt horrified, yet like a fool at the same time.

I began to hear muffled talking about a minute after I first heard the slam. I began to calm down. But that calmness didn’t last long. At that moment I was quite sure I screwed myself, because if it was my parents then they’re going to be shocked at what I’m doing and I’ll have no explanation for them. However, if it was Dylan and Alex then I’d be good… somewhat. I turned to the fireplace and decided to close the screen. Luckily for me the screen covered up the fire so it couldn’t be seen. I just have to hope that my parents don’t hear the crackling of the fire. Then the door opened.

I stood up quickly, my heart completely frozen in fear. Thank the LORD, it was my friends. I let out an inhumanly long sigh of relief as they came in. But then I took my own breath away realizing that my parents could come home at any minute. My friends turned to me and were a bit shocked at how my house looked at the time and how I looked. They told me that my skin was really pale. I looked down at my arm and they were right.

“Good god you look like you’ve seen a freaking ghost,” Alex said in such a voice that I could tell he was trying to veil his nervousness.

“Something along those lines,” I responded without putting much thought into it.

“Excuse me?” Alex asked. Dammit, why did I say that?! I decided not to try and lie my way out of this as I’m a horrid liar.

“Well, I went upstairs to find a less conspicuous way of disposing of that wretched book, such as, eh, I don’t know… flushing it down the toilet? But anyway I decided to go to my room to look for something else to destroy the book with when I found my dog cowering in the corner of my room. I saw it looking at my closet. I turned around, opened the door and saw long scratches down the wall and my shirts torn in half.”

“Dude, what the—” our conversation was interrupted by the sound of my dog whining and scratching against my door. I muttered, “Shit” under my breath and ran up the stairs and to the door. I could hear my dog’s panicked scratches and crying so loudly. I swung the door open and my dog looked like he’d been on the streets for at least a year. His fur looked greasy and he had a panicked look on his face. My dog ran past me faster than it ever ran before. It ran to the basement.

“Holy shit,” Dylan exclaimed. “Logan did you see that?”

“Unfortunately,” I replied in a mournful tone. “I’m going to take a quick look as to what it was yelping about.” I turned back to my room and opened the door slowly, dreading what may be inside. I saw four long scratches down my bed and my covers were on the ground. My window was also opened (but not shattered) and my curtains were also torn in half.

I found myself slowly backing away from the room and beginning to feel nauseous. I had to hold on to the rails of the balcony in order to keep myself from falling to the ground.

“Oh my god, Logan, are you alright?” Dylan asked.

“Not exactly,” I said as I drained the remaining energy within my body left. The last thing I remember from that moment was hitting the ground and my vision slowly collapsing into the darkness.

I woke up groggily. It took my eyes a minute to sharpen to my new surroundings, and I felt this irritating throbbing in my head.

“Good lord… where am I?” I asked weakly. A voice, Alex’s, responded.

“Welcome back to reality, Logan. You passed out or something, so we drove you here to a hotel. We were waiting until you woke up to walk in.” My family and I have been to this hotel before, and it’s quite a ways from our neighborhood, so that’s good.

“What about the people that walked by and saw me lying down in the backseat?”

“Uh… well, only one person walked passed our car and he didn’t bother to look in the window. Sheer luck right there.” I chuckled a bit, still groggy from waking up.

“Well, shall we go in to the hotel for the night? It’s already 9pm,” Dylan said. We all stepped out of the car (I struggled a little bit) and checked in to the hotel.

We finally got to our room. Two beds, a TV, a table, all that basic stuff. Then I realized, what if I forgot my phone? I immediately asked one of my friends where my phone was.

“Yeah, I set your phone on the table right there,” Dylan said, pointing to a table sitting beside a window with closed curtains. “Thanks, man.” I responded. I picked up my phone and saw that I had a new text message. It was from Leo. I opened up the message and read:

“Hey man. How’s it going? I invited George to stay over for the night. We’re hoping to see the sun again, ha. But, um, I have something I think I should tell you. When you were playing that song on the piano, I actually had my phone out and recorded the motions of your hands. We’re going to try to play the song tonight and kill the demon. Goodbye.”

I froze. I don’t even know why I froze. I mean, I didn’t like Leo and George as much as I used to because they decided to stay behind. I turned to Dylan and Alex, and said,

“Hey, guys… Leo just texted me saying that he’s going to attempt to kill the monster.”

“The hell?” Alex asked. “He doesn’t have the sheet music for it!”

“That’s the thing; Leo apparently recorded the motions of my hands with his phone.”

“Did he say why?”

“No, he just told me that he and George are going to attempt to kill the monster.” Dylan didn’t say anything. I looked over to him and saw him subtly shake his head. Then he spoke up.

“How about this: we’ll wake up tomorrow morning and drive back to their neighborhood and see if they’re still there,” he said in an emotionless tone. “If they are, great. If they aren’t, well, we’re still moving to a different city.” Dylan sounded unbelievably apathetic. This was unusual for him.

Then I decided to give my small speech to them.

“Guys, look at what’s happened to us. We’ve stood the test of time and have been able to overcome any adversity that we encountered. Now look where we are, completely separated. 3 scardey cats hiding away and two courageous (and maybe ignorant) lions facing their demons head-on, we are pathetic.” No one spoke up for at least a couple of seconds, but then Dylan said something that pushed me down again.

“Do you even remember what Leo said at lunch today, Logan? He said that we’ve loved doing these things but nothing bad has ever happened to us. Logan, you’re still holding up an invisible shield. It’s time to face the truth.” I stared at Dylan with my mouth open.

“I have no words,” I managed to push out.

“Make your decision. Anyway, I’m going to watch the news and go to sleep. Alex is joining me.” I decided to join them as well. I went to the bathroom first, to brush my teeth and do all that stuff. When I got done, instead of getting into a bed I decided to sit at one of the chairs at the table and watch the news.

It was the same stuff as any other day. Just depressing reports, and that one little good deed or event to somewhat lighten up the dark mood. I began to doze off, that is until I heard something on the news that shocked me. There was a fire going on at the address Leo was on. My heart jumped out of my chest. I looked at the clock. 10:09pm, it read. I asked Dylan if I could borrow the keys to his car.

“Dude, no. It’s my car, not yours.”

“Dylan, you dipshit Leo and George are in trouble! We have to do something!” I exclaimed terrifyingly.

“You have to do something. We’re sticking to our plan.” Then I said something I never thought I’d say to my friends.

“Fuck you guys.” I then leaped out of my chair and slammed the door behind me, potentially rousing sleeping residents of the hotel. I ran down the hall and dashed down the stairs faster than ever before. I then ran past the receptionist and ignoring their cries as to why I was going so fast. I tore through the doors to the hotel and began to run all the way back to the neighborhood. That was a mistake.

My legs did not appreciate my decision. I was unfortunately not fit enough to run this entire distance without any breaks so my legs began to falter in the middle of it.

Once I had left all of the main lights and began to run down one of the darkest roads in the town I began to grow nervous. There were only a couple of streetlights every 20 meters, providing only a small haven for me to take breaks in if I so wanted to.

I kept on running. But then I was forced to stop because my legs couldn’t take any more without a break. I rested under a street light and tried to catch my breath. I was panting so hard it felt like I was going to pass out at any moment. But then I heard something that made me want to end it myself before anything else could touch me. I heard that dreaded, “screeee… screeee… screeee…” quite a ways behind me. “No, oh please, God, no…” I began to mutter to myself. I could feel tears beginning to form. I slowly turned my head back around and saw it, that fat piece of shit that was approaching our house two days ago. I was paralyzed in fear. I could feel my muscles begin to weaken knowing this may be my end. But what made me regain that waning strength was the fact that the monster was walking slowly to my direction. Then it stopped. It stood there for maybe five seconds. Five long, excruciating and horrifying seconds. Then it raised its hands, brandishing those long fingernails that it had. I felt like vomiting at this point. I’m tired as hell and now the monster that tried to get us before is right in front of me.

Then it began to run at me. It was humorous in a way but unbelievably horrific. I then turned around and tried to run. My entire body was shaking so much it was almost impossible to move. Have you ever had that feeling where you’re being chased or you feel like something is gaining up on you? Like that little force from behind? That’s what I felt. What came first was that force, and then I began to hear brief, yet heavy footsteps getting closer and closer behind me. I couldn’t see him but I knew that he was close.

I then found myself falling to the ground painfully. I was quite sure that the collision had rendered my arms temporarily useless at this point. Still shaking, and on the verge of tears, I slowly rolled over and saw the creature standing over me. Its head was covering the moon. I could feel my lips trembling so much and I could feel small streaks of water descending down my cheeks. Memories of my life, just to evaporate to the skies. Then I felt 8 hard and cold things gather behind my head and lift me up to the creature. It didn’t take long for me to realize that those 8 things were the thing’s fingernails. I immediately felt disgusted and vomited over my shirt. I looked up again and saw the creature’s face. It was extremely pale. It had no lips, and large, white eyes staring directly into my soul. I could hear its slow and demonic breathing as well. We both looked at each other. It looked like it was examining me.

Spontaneously the creature growled and lifted its hand up, its fingernails looking like 4 swords ready to slice me into pieces. I immediately punched the creature in the face and was able to give myself enough running room. But before I could get far enough away, I felt 4 sharp and painful scratches go down right leg. If I wasn’t careful enough, I would’ve fallen down again but I was, somehow, able to keep my balance and continue running. If you think about it, with my legs already getting tired and sore and getting cut, I must be the luckiest man on the Earth.

A couple minutes into the run, I began to see flashing lights from above the trees. Yes! That must be where the house is! Gah, what a foolish remark. Being happy to see fire trucks trying to take out a fire in your friend’s house isn’t something to be too ecstatic about. I made a final dash (which was another bad decision as that completely killed my legs) and was excited to see both Leo and George standing outside of the house, shaking in fear. I yelled both their names and they were surprised to see me come back.

“Jesus Christ I am so damn happy to see you guys are alright!” I exclaimed.

“Boy, are we glad to see you too,” George exclaimed back. It was hard to talk above all of the flames and rushing water.

“Dude, the fuck happened to the house?” I yelled.

“That’s actually a funny story,” George responded. “We ended up playing the song, well, I ended up playing the song, and nothing happened for a bit. Suddenly I began to hear crackling from the kitchen and Leo screaming to get the hell out and call 911. Say, why do you look so damaged?” I froze. I didn’t know if I should’ve told them about the monster or not. Should I make them even more nervous considering the fact Leo already lost his house?

We stood and stared at the blazing house. Leo never spoke a word. All I could see was an emotionless face and a dead glare. I couldn’t tell if he was falling into a deep depression or was just losing all connection to his emotions. I then spoke up, awkwardly trying to break the forlorn silence. I asked both of them if they wanted to come with me and sleep with Alex, Dylan and me for… well, god knows how long. George agreed, but Leo just stared at me with that emotionless stare. Regardless, he still followed George and me to the hotel. I know what you’re thinking; you’re thinking that I’m an insane maniac making my friends walk the path from where I met the creature. Thing is, though, when I turned back around I didn’t see the creature anywhere. I made a premature assumption that we’re safe and that we can return home to the cozy heat of the hotel room and the comfortable beds. That seemed worth it.

We continued down the dark road that I traveled. I could feel myself shaking tremendously. I kept muttering to myself, “Stop shaking, stop shaking!” to hopefully not inflict the feeling of fear upon my friends.

Suddenly, I heard Leo scream and there came a loud scratch like something being dragged against the road. I turned around swiftly as my legs began to die even more. I saw the creature had pulled George back and had already pinned him to the ground. Leo and I couldn’t do anything but watch in horror. The creature immediately impaled George in the area where his heart was with one fingernail and took another and jabbed it into his head. George had a very brief spasm but then stopped moving. I was horrified, yeah, but at the same time I was infuriated. I couldn’t help but yell,

“You sadistic piece of shit!” at the top of my lungs. The creature swiftly turned its head to me and without falter it began to chase me down, continuing to brandish its long fingernails at me. I quickly turned over to Leo before running, and he still had that expressionless glare. It scared the hell out of me. But when I ran, Leo began to run with me too. He didn’t scream or start breathing quickly and loudly. He just followed whatever I did.

And of course, I forgot that my legs temporarily died again. I immediately fell to the ground and the creature pinned me down before I could even attempt to get up. I saw that it was about to lift its hand up and scratch me again. But before it could do that, I grabbed one of its fingernails and in a severe fit of rage I immediately snapped it in half. It sounded like breaking a human bone. The creature let out a loud, piercing screech, that of a banshee. This time I was able to get up and try to run away because it had backed away from me. My legs were in such unbearable pain. I limped every time I even set my foot down to the road. I groaned in agony with every step. I was on the verge of just giving up. This was now torture. “Just make it to the hotel, just make it to the hotel,” I kept telling myself. I could still hear those heavy and fast footsteps behind me.

Then, I saw the lights of the hotel ahead of me. In fact, it was maybe thirty meters away. I was going to give it my all like usual but my legs would absolutely give up on me then, I’d essentially be paralyzed if I even dared to try harder. But regardless, I still proceeded to limp/run. It was like I was seeing the lights of heaven, trying to escape from the flaming inferno of hell.

Then finally, I reached the entrance to the hotel. I opened the doors with brutal force and fell to the ground. The receptionist gasped and I could hear her standing up from her chair and coming over to me, but then gasping again at the sight of the creature. I knew that demon was right outside the door and was now making its way in. But then, I heard a horrific screech. I immediately turned myself over and saw that the creature’s remaining fingernails were cut in half and they were now lying on the floor. The creature let out deafening cries of agony as it tried to suppress the pain. Then it ran back to the door and used its remaining fingernails to create scratches in the glass, completely shattering it.

“Holy fuck,” I exclaimed. The creature stood in front of me and without any hesitation it scratched my face. Oh god, the pain was excruciating. I let out a scream and began to cry at the same time. It scratched me again, this time the pain doubled. I let out another scream and cried harder than I ever had before. I saw it lift up its hand again… but then I saw a baseball bat come into view and I saw the pieces of the creature’s fingernails go flying off once again. The creature let out yet another scream, this time I was pretty sure it had aroused the entire town. I was able to use my arms to drag myself away from the creature. I saw that the person who had hit the creature with the bat was the receptionist that had nearly fainted. I looked up at her and she looked at me. We exchanged brief glances and she looked back at the creature. I knew that we both expected the creature to stop screaming and attack us… but instead it screamed one last time. I could never be sure, but it sounded like a muffled, distorted version of “Leah!” The creature then staggered in agony out of the hotel. The only noise left was the commotion of the residents upstairs and our heavy breathing. Leo, Dylan and Alex rushed down, gasped at my face and immediately asked if I was alright, and what had happened.

“I’m… I’m fine,” I said with a waning voice. I felt like I was going to die. I then said, with much pain, “The creature chased... chased us down from Leo’s house… and it chased us here and nearly ki-killed me. If it wasn’t for this recep—” I paused to catch my breath. “Egh, if it wasn’t for this receptionist I may be dead by now.”

“I’m going to call an ambulance,” the receptionist said. I set my head back down on the floor and stared at the fading ceiling. The last thing I can remember are my friends sitting beside me saying that I would be alright and other residents of the hotel talking about what just happened. And then… the sirens and the flashing lights.

I woke up in a hospital bed and saw my friends sitting at the corners of the room. I didn’t have the energy to turn my head but I could see from the window above me the sun’s rays shining through.

“You’ve been out for a long time, dude,” Alex said. “5 hours to be exact.” I spoke, but it started off as me just blowing out air.

“Hhhhow does my face look?” I asked in a raspy voice.

“They said that it’s going to take at least a few weeks to heal completely, as its nothing they’ve ever seen before,” Dylan said. I wasn’t too upset. I don’t know why, to be honest, I was just accepting of it. Then I asked the question that our friendship relies on.

“Do you think that we… we could ever be the same after this?” No one responded for a while. It was quiet, peaceful. Then Leo spoke up.

“No one knows what Adversity truly is until they experience something like we did…” Leo then put his hand over his face. Alex walked over to Leo and tried to comfort him. I looked down at my hand and began to think about the creature. Why did it kill George? Why did it look that way? I lifted my head up, slowly, and said,

“Do you guys know what I found strange? When the receptionist hit the creature’s nails with the baseball bat, it screamed… I think it was… ‘Leah.’” Dylan and Alex both looked at me with skeptical faces. I’m sure they were thinking the same thing I was.

…Love… True Love…