The Monster Left Behind
Sometimes monsters pass through.
We’ve all gotten used to it.
It’s been happening for as long as anyone can remember. We see their shapes in the distance for a few moments, and then they’re gone.
It’s almost like background imagery.
They don’t cause any harm. But just in case, nobody really ventures as far as the mountains where they’re seen.
We would think they weren’t real, but back when they first began passing through, explorers ventured out there and saw the damage they leave behind. They are very much real, for the few moments we can see them. And then they’re gone.
Most people think they’re passing through our world, from lands unknown to destinations unimaginable.
My sister doesn’t believe in them. She says that what we see by the mountains is a trick of the light, an illusion that someone’s making to fool us, that monsters aren’t real. And from her perspective, it seems like she could actually be right. She’s never been there, never seen those giant footprints for herself.
And as far as she knows, I haven’t either.
But I’ve always been fascinated with them. I sneak out when nobody’s looking and I go there. I know it’s dangerous, but I can always run if I need to - turn around and race through the grass and hills and streams, all the way home. I can outrun any monster.
They’re such a mystery. Why is that thin strip of land the area they all pass through? Why do they disappear so quickly? Are they gathering somewhere? Are they all from the same place? They look very different. Some are scarier than others.
The first one I saw up close had big eyes and fur everywhere, looking almost like a large colorful beast. I hardly dared to breathe when it was there, but the monster itself didn’t scare me. It intrigued me. I stared at it, trying to remember it as best as I could, because I didn’t think I’d be going back there. But as some of the details started fading from my memory in the comfortable safety of my home, I realized how much I wanted to see a monster again.
The first one that scared me happened several weeks later. It was ink-colored and almost seemed to be dripping, but I didn’t see any ink reaching the ground. It was slow, and breathed heavily, and for a second I thought its blank eyes were watching me. I had nightmares after that one, and stayed away for a while. But my curiosity won out and so I came back, again and again.
And then there was that one I saw just a month ago, that confused me because it was translucent - and left only half the damage. It was like it wasn’t completely real. But that’s the thing, we can definitely see them for the time they are here. That’s the pattern they’ve all shared, that they’re not real and then they are and then they aren’t. There was no halfway. I don’t know what this means. Is the pattern changing?
But they all stay here for the same amount of time. Thirty-two seconds. That long, and then they disappear. I was the first one to time it. I want to tell someone, but then I’d get in trouble for going somewhere so dangerous, so I keep things to myself.
Everyone is busy. My parents are working, and my sister is in school, which I am too young for. The schoolhouse can’t fit all the children at once, so only the older ones are sent there. I sneak out again and run the few miles to where the monsters show up. There hasn’t been a monster yet this week. I want to see if I can draw one this time.
After a few hours, one appears.
It only has one eye, and that is its most striking feature. It isn’t one of the scarier ones. It walks slowly across the expanse.
But I find it unsettling. I put my sketchpad down. I don’t think I want to draw it.
I count under my breath. Twenty seven. Twenty eight. Twenty nine.
Slowly, it turns toward me.
Thirty. Thirty one. Thirty two.
Right on cue, it begins to fade. But not all of it. The eye remains. It is looking straight at me. I stare at it and it stares at me and it doesn’t fade away. Thirty seven. Thirty eight. Everything else is gone. It’s still here. Forty five. Forty six. It doesn’t move. I wonder if I’m hallucinating, or imagining things. I blink. It’s still there.
Seventy three seconds. The panic begins to set in and I am blinded by terror. It’s not leaving. It’s not leaving it’s coming here it’s coming for us things are changing I am scared.
I stare at it for a few more seconds eighty nine ninety and then I bolt. I run and run and run all the way back home and I am crying now because the monsters always fade but it is still here.
I want to glance back but I am too afraid. I run.
I get back disheveled and in tears and everyone is asking me what happened what I saw what is it.
The eye, I say, the eye didn’t fade and now the monsters are going to come for us and I am afraid.
What eye? they say.
I turn around.
There is nothing there.
And then my parents arrive and they are angry and my sister is saying I told you so I knew it was dangerous letting her get so excited about those things.
I am not allowed to leave anymore.
But the eye still haunts me in my dreams. And I feel something in the air. Something is different.
Something is about to happen.
I am afraid.