This is a short story I wrote about one of the main char­ac­ters of the web­comic I write and my friend Nate draws; it can be seen here. I’m pretty happy with it and it is abso­lute fun to read aloud.

For Nate


I came home. I pulled out my keys. I tried a key in the lock, but it didn’t work. It slipped against it clum­sily. I looked at the keyring in the dim moon­light. I picked another key, and tried open­ing the lock again. It didn’t work either. I picked another key. Vin­cent came out of the shadows.

You know, if you don’t open the door on the third try,” said Vin­cent, “the mon­sters peel them­selves from the woodwork.”

And what hap­pens then?” I asked.

The only thing they leave is the wood­work,” said Vin­cent, and van­ished into the shad­ows. I pushed the key the whole way in. It turned, and the door swung open with a whis­per of hinges. I went inside. The house was dark and grey and quiet as fur. I closed the door. I put the keys on the shelf. I opened the kit­chen door. As I opened it, I heard another door open, some­where, close. Vin­cent came out of the shadows.

You know, when you open a door and another door closes,” said Vin­cent, “it’s a mon­ster slip­ping away.”

Is it scared of me?” I asked.

Don’t be fool­ish,” said Vin­cent. “It’s just find­ing a bet­ter place.” Vin­cent van­ished into the shadows.

I went through the house and opened all the doors. I checked under all the beds. I opened all the cup­boards. I lif­ted up all the cush­ions. I found no mon­sters. I went into the kit­chen. The kit­chen was safe and bright. I turned all the lights on, and left the fridge door open, and turned on the light in the oven, and put the kettle on and turned the radio on really loud, loud enough to drown out the kettle. I sat in the middle of the room. The fridge star­ted beep­ing at me. Vin­cent came out of the shadows.

You know, if you keep the fridge door open long enough,” said Vin­cent, “the mon­sters slink up at you from inside.”

Where do they live?” I asked.

In the veget­able drawer, of course,” said Vin­cent. “With the car­rots and the avocados.”

What do they look like?” I asked.

Like fangs that snakes lost,” said Vin­cent. “Like oiled oyster shells without eyes.” Vin­cent van­ished into the shad­ows. I closed the fridge door. It seemed safer that way.

I put on my biggest, cosi­est jumper. I put on my warmest, safest socks. I pulled the plaid rug from the linen cup­board, and wrapped myself in it, and sat in my bed­room, clutch­ing a cup of tea. I drank some of the tea, and it made me feel bet­ter. I felt calm enough to read a book. I put the tea on the side of the table. Vin­cent came out of the shadows.

You know, if you leave the tea so long that it gets cold,” said Vin­cent, “the mon­sters coil around your toes. They crush your throat.”

Why do they care about my tea?” I asked.

They just like it warm,” said Vin­cent, and van­ished into the shad­ows. I drank all the tea in one big gulp, and it scal­ded my tongue. It seemed bet­ter that way.

Before I went to bed, I checked the whole house. I checked it for elec­trical appli­ances left on and for hor­rors I had heard of. I found one heater still hot and one light in the bath­room still lit. I found no hor­rors. I brushed my teeth. I spit and gargled. I left the bath­room light on, in case I wanted water in the night, and went to the bed­room. I climbed into my pyja­mas. Vin­cent came out of the shadows.

You know, if you leave the bath­room light on all night,” said Vin­cent, “it draws moths.”

I don’t see what’s so bad about moths,” I said.

The moths aren’t the thing,” said Vin­cent. “The moths draw other things.”

Do they eat the moths?” I asked.

No,” said Vin­cent. “They watch.” He van­ished into the shadows.

I went to the bath­room and turned off the light. It was the sens­ible thing to do. It was pitch black get­ting to my bed­room, and I hit my knee on a badly placed set of draw­ers. I climbed into bed, sore. I fell asleep quickly. I had sound­less dreams. Vin­cent came out of the shadows.

You know, if you have sound­less dreams,” said Vin­cent, “it means some­thing is block­ing your ears while you sleep.”

What sort of thing?” I asked.

It has a name,” said Vin­cent, “but you never hear it. It’s block­ing your ears, you see.” He van­ished into the shad­ows. I woke up scream­ing. There was some­thing in the room with me. It was the things that wait for moths. Without mouths. Without eyes. Like slick slinky oyster shells. It was the shad­ows. I van­ished into the shadows.

Vin­cent came out of the shadows.

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