The window creaked as I closed it and I immediately thought of the last horror movie I’d watched, though it had been years before. Still unused to living alone, I shook off my chilled paranoia and turned to close another. The storm was coming in fast, and my spacious old house had a lot of windows.

Once done, I strolled to the living room, grabbed a tattered paperback I’d read about a dozen times, and headed to my room upstairs. As the thunder rolled closer, it resembled faint growls. The wind added a high-pitched whine and I couldn’t help but shiver. I had always loved stormy weather, but the last year had been tough. The medicine helped, but my feelings of irrational anxiety, fear, and the occasional hallucination took their toll. I almost wished for the safe hospital room with the quietly sympathetic nurses who were always on hand for comforting words to reassure me that I was OK. Here, I was on my own, independently vulnerable. Mixed emotions rolled through me as I tried to focus on the story in my lap. The heroine was so unlike me– strong, self-assured, and with no diagnosis of mental illness to hold her back from her full potential.  I felt like I could be her if only I could quell my inner demons. She could have done it for me, if she were real. The storm grew closer and more powerful snarls of thunder shook my empty house. The hostility of the weather felt personal, almost. As though it knew I could only withstand so much; like the dainty flowering trees outside I quivered and tried to stay mentally upright. 

I got up and paced the halls, worrying. I was starting to see dark patches in my peripheral vision again, the kind that generally warned of an upcoming hallucination. When I looked directly at the dark shifting blotches, they moved just out of sight again. I felt my skin crawl and it seemed like if I could just turn around quick enough, I would see a monster behind me, but I knew that was nonsense. It was a blend of an illness that I had sought treatment for and an overactive imagination in a house that was way too spacious for one person. Lightening flashed brightly, and I welcomed it in spite of its noisy partner. Light was always my friend. Every light and lamp in my home burned 24/7. It was critical that I not be in the dark. I might be safe from physical danger, but the emotional assault would be inevitable and devastating. 

My wanderings took me through the rarely used kitchen, through the abandoned family-sized dining room, and into the library. It’s funny how even the rich can suffer so greatly. I hadn’t always had money, and I hadn’t always been sick. It almost seemed that to obtain one I had to accept the other. Not a good trade in my book.  Still restless and fearful, I turned to head back to my bedroom and I saw it- just barely, but it was there and it seemed so real. Knowing it wasn’t, I ignored the evil eyes and bared fangs. These types of things are always bouncing around in my head, waiting to jump out like a mischievous child yelling “Boo!” only they weren’t children and they were very scary. The growls that I had taken for thunder now seemed to come from him. His eyes flashed yellow at me, reminding me of the lightening I had welcomed so naively. I turned my back on him, willing him away, trying to get ahold of myself before I wound up in the fetal position in full melt down mode. I tried to think of someone I could call, but I really was alone in the world. 911 operators don’t get paid enough to talk me down when I get like this. Feeling hunted, I walked down the hallway. I could feel him follow me, though there was, of course, nothing there. Hot breath caressed my bare legs as he panted in his excitement. I stopped and closed my eyes as tightly as I could. I would have to take my next dose early. I couldn’t make it without it. I turned in his direction because I had to in order to get to my pills. Impressed with my bravery, I felt a little more like the heroine in my story. Maybe I could face this after all. I took a few steps and then tripped over something. Something hairy yelped in surprise and sank his teeth into my arm. Pulled down by his massive weight I was astonished that for once I was in my right mind. My monster was real.

Laura Austin lives in rural Kentucky with her husband and two children. She has been previously published by The Haberdasher and Better Than Starbucks magazine. She writes poetry, short fiction, children’s’ books, and song lyrics.

About the Author

Real skull. Don't ask. You wouldn't believe it if I told you.

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