This dark secret isn’t locked in the basement, or hidden behind a secret door, or underneath the floorboards, but rather, slithers in-between his heart, brain and bowls. Moving up and down his nervous system. If this monster is found out, and brought out to the exposure of the light of day, for all to see; no doubt, the accusations would start forthright. And it would end good ol’ Hephner.
Hephner sits plaintively, playing the scene in his head.
A lassoed rope would be thrown about the neck of the beast, then dragged from the cave of his dwelling. Children would gasp in astonishment at the hideous tendrils, the slimy sides of flesh and popping veins of gore that make up its body ; the single eye protruding to look back at them, in a way unfathomable and hideous to their innocent minds. The grown members of society would stand in between, maintaining the safe distance away from IT and the women and children. As the more brave members of the community approach the monster, ropes in hand, ready to all at once attempt to throw a harness onto the monster.
By then, having exploded with gore, to show my true appearance, my slimy form would be held fast, secured on all sides by ropes, tethered to the other men.
“What is it!?” a voice would cry.
“Kill it!” would demand another.
*Knock *KNOCK* a sound disrupts this thought, and the tentacles recede back into my chest – I quickly button my shirt as another knock rings out.
“Just a minute,” I say, loud enough, as I pull myself from my chair, walking the expanse of the room, to the door. One latch shifted aside, another, and then the last, then the knob itself, and the door is swung open.
Standing there is Hank Effermill, my neighbor and local social activist. He will frequently petition the neighborhood for this cause, or that, always the most talked-about and fashionable amongst the folk at that given time.
This time however, he stand s on the stoop with a broad smile and wide probing eyes, a faccade of friendliness greets me.
“Hey Hephy,” he calls me—a nickname I have never condoned, or approved of; or liked for that matter, but, nevertheless…
“Hey there Hanks,” I issue back– I will either use ‘Hanks’ or just ‘Hank-y’ him right back at ‘im—these games irk me, yet, they come to me—and I see no way to avoid them.
“Hephy, how ya doing?” he extends a hand, I take it, and he continues, “Hey Bud, listen, I’v been talking to everyone in our little commune here to address a concern We all seem to have.”
A bead of sweat forms on my forehead, I can feel it – the late afternoon sun shines from over Hank’s right shoulder into my face “Oh?” I say, “and what’s that?”
“Haven’t you noticed all the cats?” he asks, already mocking outrage.
“I’m sorry?” I reply.
“The CATS!” he repeats, urgently, probingly at me.
“I’m sorry Hank, I’m afraid I don’t follow, what about the cats?”
Hank pauses a few seconds, staring wide-eyed at me, mouth open as if about to let out a gasp.
“Hephy, are you telling me, you haven’t noticed the dead cats? They’ve been strewn all over the side walk and street for the past week.”
Concerned, furrowed brows—I look over the left shoulder of the accuser to see no such image in the streets.
No dead cats.
“I don’t see any dead cats.”
“HA!” Hanks erupts, and starts shaking his head as if at a moron “Bud, me and your other neighbors have cleaned them up—we’ve already taken care of it—I don’t know what you’ve been up to this whole time.” Hank gives a long concerned glance around the frame of my shoulders into the open house behind me. A bead of sweat slides down my temple as more begin to form. The sun now is unbearable, and my patience has been exhausted with Hank-y/bud.
“listen Hank-“ I begin, sternly.
“Why are you sitting in the dark?” Hank begins.
“What?” I ask, discontinuing my train of thought.
“Uh, there’s no light on in your house…what are you doing, sitting in the dark?”
I look behind me, thinking of a plausible explanation, but then abandon this course, and start wondering rid of Hank, and get this door closed.
“Listen Hank, I’m right in the middle of some-“
“What? What are you doing?”
“I don’t, …none of your business.”
Hank, not offended, not concerned, but, suspicious, is projecting guilt,– I can I feel it– he moves closer to the door frame, and continues in a more intimate manner.
“Listen, Hephy, you okay bud?” Hank says, as if concerned.
He places his right arm on my left shoulder paternally, and I feel my blood temperature rise.
I don’t like Hank, I never have ever since moving into this house. I haven’t been able to interpret his manner, and therefore haven’t developed strategies to neutralize interactions with him. It seems he’s always looking for my buttons, so as to press them. I don’t know what his agenda is, —but then I remember.
A Flash of light bursts in my brain, and a vision occurs to me:
Late at night, I crawl out my window, though I have no legs, just a slithering mess for replacements; I slide over the sill and lower the rest down to the grass below.
Lurking in the shadows, in the space between my house and Hank’s, just out of view of these two sweethearts, local teenagers I see standing underneath a street lamp. The girl is giggling, as the male puts his arm around her waist, then puts his face to hers for a kiss.
Suddenly, a hollow dry gurgle erupts from the center of my body—I look down to see a bumpy cavity laced with ropes of drooping slime.
I look back-up, the couple now are looking in my direction, where I hide in the shadows of a tree, two houses and behind a shrub.
“What was that?” the girl asks.
“I don’t know,” the male responds.
“Let’s get out of here,” she says.
“Good idea.” And so, from underneath the street lamp, they quickly step away.
Moments later, a tabby cat jumps into view not five feet from myself. The cat stops, sits and starts licking a lifted leg. Suddenly, before I realize it fully, I see two tentacles jut out on either side of my vision; startled, but before it can react, the tabby is ensnared, and dragged toward gaping hole in my midsection.
Suddenly, I am ripped out of this trance, and my consciousness returns to the present, just as Hank removes his hand from my shoulder.
I spurt “Jesus, why are you touching me!? I don’t want anything to do with you, now please: leave me alone!”
I step back from the wide-eyed Hank, and slam the door.
In a cold sweat, and panic I secure the door with all three latches, plus the lock in the door knob.
I back step back into the darkness, shift over to the window, and peel back a corner of the shade. I watch Hank back-out from my front walk way, then turning his head toward the bottom corner and finding me with his eyes.
I flick the cloth back in place, already cursing myself for reacting so flinchingly.
‘Hank has no power over me!’ I think to myself.
I wait a few seconds, deciding that, if Hank is still standing there I’ll rip open the window shades and stare right back, hands crossed and even more accusatory and condescendingly than even ol’ Hank-boy can achieve. But he’s not, I can see, instead, he’s off a few yards down the street, talking with two more figures.
I then recognize who they are.
The couple, the teenage couple from the other night.
More panic enters my blood stream, as I watch the three of them talk, the male points a finger toward the alley between my house and Hank’s, saying something.
They all three look, and Hank gives a concerned glance toward my own house again—and I, once again, close the flap.
Once again cursing myself for being so obvious.
It is then I resign to clear my mind of these paranoid thoughts. There is nothing to be concerned about, I’ve done nothing wrong, I’m no monster. Besides, how can they prove anything?
They’ve got no evidence, and can’t pin a damn thing on me.
I sink back into chair, and try to relax. I hum a few bars of an impromptu classical-sounding song.
I hear cars pass outside.
“Yes, of course,” I consider, “I will argue that the speed limit on this road is too high, people don’t slow down, and it being a curved road- it is obviously a dangerous spot for cats to be allowed to freely roam. Besides, there were far too many cats in this neighborhood anyway—at night, sometimes, I will lay awake and hear them hissing and fighting outside—“ — suddenly a pain.
In my abdomen a punching, form inside, outward. So violent, my abdomen protrudes suddenly, a button from my shirt zips across the room. Then another punch, and another button. I look down to see the mound pushing outward, from above my belly.
Another cold sweat, and another flash in my mind.
Presently, it is night time, and I sit watching a group of cats, maybe three or four, fight over some scraps behind the local deli, just down the street from my house. I loom closer, not so close however to give myself away and startle the critters. Silently, I slither closer—and then—
My eyes burst open! I am cold, numb, and naked on the floor of my living room. A cold wind rushes in through opening where windows should be, jagged shattered shards still in the frame. I lay in sweat and the rest of the broken window on a cold hard wood floor.
“Oh no!” I think, “not again!”
I’m not only sweaty, but covered in a dried film of slime, the tentacles, like writhing worms still hold out like a claw inches from my abdomen.
Then I hear a loud booming voice from outside, on the sidewalk, in the front of my home.
I reach the edge of the window sill and peer over to spy a group of townsfolk, having gathered in front of my house. The cloudless night sky gives stark outlines of this group, all whom I recognize as neighbors. All now stand stern, of about ten of them, with hard, determined expressions on their faces.
At the helm, I see the back of who must be Hank, arms raised, as if to silence the crowd. And then to issue a speech.
“On the count of ten, myself, and Rich, will enter the house and cajole the monster out, we’ll try to lasso him and drag him to the front lawn here, where Marty, you Pank and Fillmore will throw your lassos around him. Peggy, you and Matilda will then shoot your tranquilizers. If we can’t get him out right away, we’ll have fire on him, but we’ll try not to kill him—we want ‘im alive! But if it comes down to it, and he proves too much for us, we will have no choice but to kill him as a last resort! Okay!? let’s do it!– 1!”
Hank turns around to face my house, I drop to my ass to the hardwood floor with my back braced against the wall.
I hear him continue his counting.
From outside the house, looking on, the group of townsfolk stand tense, listening to Hank’s count to 10. When Hank reaches 8, however, a large mass of inexplicable gore and guts shoot from the opening in the house as if like an explosion from a cannon, and this grabbing, mass of tenticles springs out, grabbing at the gathered crowd. Shots ring out throughout the night air of the small community of Brushems Cove.