Editor’s note: Ashleigh Prahl’s short story was an honorable mention in The Kiosk’s Fall 2023 Fiction Story Contest.
My eyes shoot open and examine the creases of my ceiling as they adjust to the dark filled night. Drenched in sweat I rip the covers off and turn to look at the time, 3:28 am, that’s when I hear it down the hall. Heavy steps shaking the house, snarls and angry breaths filling my ears. I freeze in a panic, there’s nowhere to hide, too late to run, what the hell am I going to do. Fear coursing through my veins I sit up, grab my blanket and slip under the bed. Doing my best to conceal myself behind old boxes filled with keepsakes I can’t let go of I let myself become as still as the evening outside. Seconds that feel like hours go by as it drudges up the hardwood floor slowly making its way to the entrance of my bedroom. I hold my breath as the door creaks open to reveal its massive shape.
A palpable sense of my own dread hangs in the air as I strain my eyes to look upon the beast. It’s size bigger than anything I’ve seen, fur so dark as if drenched in malice, and eyes hot red like smoldering embers. It’s breath is heavy, the room fills with inhuman sounds dripping out from the back of its throat as it scrapes its razor-edge claws down the side of my bedroom wall. My heart drops through the floor as I realize I know it senses me, knows me so well it can find me without setting its red eyes on me.
The beast moves suddenly in one quick motion crossing the distance of the room and taking hold of me by the ankle. Before I know it I’m trapped, writhing it in its embrace, covered in sheer terror as I shut my eyes so hard it hurts. I wait to hear the cracking of my own bones as it destroys my very being but instead I’m met with silence. The room fills with the echo of my own horrified breaths, panting and ragged, I dare to look up and meet its gaze. I look into its eyes and see only a reflection of myself staring back. The monster remains unmoving, as if frozen in time, not here to eat me alive and swallow me whole, but as if only here to hold me. Though in the throws of adrenaline, I recognize the scent radiating out of its chest. A blend of my grandmother’s perfume, the way the grass in my yard smells after it rains, and my fresh cotton sheets hot out of the dryer. This monster is everything I know, things I cherish even. It’s in this moment I realize I conjured up this animal and invited it in, I let it make itself a home within my own.
I remember that this beast is shaped only by me and move to release myself from its tight grip. It’s form created through my inner fears and expectations of what could happen if I stepped into something new. I pause to take a deep breath and I’m haphazardly dropped to the hardwood floor as the monster vanishes into a butterfly. Relief washing over me, I reach my hand out to study its wings; hues of blue and green melting together creating an iridescent finish. It’s so intricate and delicate. Wildly recognized but rarely fully understood. Walking over to my open window I set it free into the early morning air. Everything it represents is unknown and foreign. I remind myself despite uncertainty I don’t have to remain fearful. I know in the depths of my soul I don’t have all the answers, but I don’t have to have a fear of the unknown, it can just be the unknown.