“Babe? What’s wrong?”
His mouth opens, but no sound comes out. I turn around to see what he’s looking at and immediately regret it.
There’s a creature on the wall. Not standing against the wall, but on the wall, at a 90 degree angle with the floor, all four limbs bent to maintain its grip. It is perfectly still, except for a slow, almost imperceptible movement of its chest as it breathes.
It looks as if it could have been human once, but any sense of humanity had left it long ago. Its entire body is a deep, dark red— darker than blood, and muddied with brown. Bent in seemingly impossible angles, its limbs anchor on the wall while it faces us. It has a head, but no face. Still, I can feel it looking at us, can sense the malice that emanates from it.
“Ivan,” I say without looking away from the creature on the wall. “What is that thing?”
“I don’t know, Nico.” His voice is soaked in fear. “But stay away from it.”
I reply with a hesitant nod, speaking to the thing in front of me. “What do you want?”
“Repent,” it hisses, the word long and drawn out. Its voice lingers in the silence that follows, like the echo of leaves being blown across rough pavement.
“Repent for what?” Ivan finally asks it shakily.
The creature doesn’t answer. It launches off the wall like a cat, straight toward me. Screaming, I crouch and curl into a ball, waiting to feel its flesh collide with mine. I am overwhelmed by utter terror, both at whatever the creature is and at my imminent harm or, even worse, death. The collision never comes.
I reopen my eyes and the creature is gone. “Where did it go?”
“It… disappeared,” Ivan says.
We both stare at each other for a long moment, neither one of us speaking.
“What do you mean disappeared?”
“It just… poof,” he says with frustration in his voice. “It was there, and then it wasn’t.”
I mull this over in my head for a few seconds.
“Do you think that’s what I saw last night?”
He takes a deep breath. “I think it could be.”
We fall silent again, both of us unsure what to say or do. Trying not to focus on what just happened, I look around the room, searching for anything to focus my attention on. My eyes land on the clock in the kitchen.
“Shit, Ivan, you’re gonna be late for work.”
“Work?! You want me to go to work after that?” He sounds shocked, as if the very suggestion is ridiculous. Perhaps it is. But all I want is to forget about that thing.
“Babe, we need the money. Whatever it is, I’m sure we’ll be fine.”
“But aren’t you scared?”
“Oh, I’m terrified. But we really do need the money.”
“What about you?” I can hear him starting to be swayed.
“I’ll be fine. You should go.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure. Go get ready.”
I clean up breakfast as he hustles to the bedroom, no longer feeling sick, just tired. After I’ve finished, I lay down on the couch, draw a blanket around me, and close my eyes.
“Bye, honey,” Ivan’s voice wakes me. “Love you.”
“Love you too. I’ll see you when you get home.” I pause for a second. “Be careful, ok?”
“Ok,” he says softly.