01 Feb This creature has been stalking me for years
This is how I remember it starting. I was eleven and Dad had just taken me to the stable again to ride. At the time, we lived up in New England, near a wooded area that ran along the Canadian border. The stable was even farther north—still in America—but desolate enough that the road to get there was long, winding, unlit—a motorcyclist’s dream, I’m sure. Never did see one, though, only horses and the odd car, making the journey up or up further still.
The stable itself was old, but the people were Dad’s friends and they let me ride their horse, Sugar, for free every day. Said it was good for her. I loved Sugar, she was a sweet, seventeen hand high white mare. And she was old, making her slow to startle, meaning I was safe or at least safer than I would’ve been with any other horse there. Dad would often leave me alone, letting me explore the area from her back. He wouldn’t go far though, and would sit chatting with the owners at a picnic table back at the barn. I’d always stay by the tree-line, saying it was so Dad could see me when it was really so I could see him. But that day…that day I was feeling more adventurous and hoped he wouldn’t mind much if Sugar and I wandered off for a while.
Sugar’s ears pricked forward, this was new to her; I think in a way she knew I was young, that she had to protect me, and it seemed like she was trying to resist my desire to explore. But, weaving through the trees, unable to see the stable, was exhilarating and I urged her forward, towards the stream I could hear trickling nearby. Above us, the birds sang and the wind whistled. It continued that way for a good few minutes, until I was deep in the thick of the trees—and then, suddenly, like someone had muted all the background noise—nothing. I heard nothing, no birds, no stream, no wind. Sugar snorted and stopped, looking around. I felt it too, the fear, and—though I didn’t understand it at the time—I felt like I was being watched, it felt threatening, and I was scared.
I pulled on the reins, trying to turn Sugar back towards the stable, but she wouldn’t budge and snorted again, stamping down, nervous. I looked between her erect ears at the place she was staring at. All I saw were trees, but then, peering out from behind one of the thicker trunks, I saw it. The creature. I’m no artist, so I’ll try describing it the best I can.
It was ghostly white and long, at least, it looked long. And I say long because it was crouched near the tree and its legs and arms were bent backwards, like an animal. I’m sure if it stood up, it would be tall, maybe eight feet. But it didn’t have feet. Instead its legs ended in weird stubs covered with many, many short feelers that undulated slowly at different speeds. Its hands were also bent backwards and rather than fingers it had long, creeping tendrils that wrapped up and around its arms like vines. It squatted on its wrists, gorilla-like, and watched me from a face that was vaguely humanoid, but smaller, like it suffered from microcephaly or something. It was bald, had beady black eyes, two holes for a nose, and a minuscule mouth that was pointed slightly downwards like it was frowning with the effort of concentration.
It made no move and just sat there, still as a statue, watching us.
Finally, Sugar turned around and bolted back towards the stable. Behind me I heard a weird clicking noise, but nothing else, no sounds of chase.
Every day after that, I would see it peeking out at me from behind the trees, like it was observing what I was doing. I wondered if anyone else saw it, the horses certainly did and made sure to stay away from areas it had been. I never told anyone, though, not even Dad. I was afraid even he would look at me with worry and start talking to me in a hushed voice like I was crazy or something. So, we kept going to the stable, until, two years later, he asked me if I wanted to start working there during the summer. Of course, I agreed, and soon he was dropping me off from dawn till dusk, and I would spend my day hauling hay, cleaning stalls, and riding Sugar around the grounds, checking up on the fences and such. I figured the creature had never harmed me, only observed, so I wasn’t going to let it stop me or scare me away.
Every few days, I would ride Sugar through the woods to a well-fenced pasture. Dad told me not to, but I did anyway, he didn’t need to know. It was about twenty minutes from the stable, along a thin dirt path. It was nice enough during the daytime, but at night, it was lit only by the light of the moon and stars, and when the moon was new, it was dead black and dangerous. I tried to only go during the day, when I could see, but sometimes I didn’t make it in time, and we ended up winding our way through trees as the sun set and I’d have to explain to Dad why I was so out there.
This particular time I had been reading in the pasture for a while and the sun was starting to fall behind the trees, casting long, eerie shadows. Beside me, unsaddled, Sugar grazed on the tall grasses and flowers that grew there. I was just getting ready to head back, when I saw it, leering out at me from under the shadows, the creature. It was close this time, closer than it had ever come before and, as I watched, it stood up and slowly, slowly made its way over to fence surrounding us.
Sugar stopped, perking up, looking at it from one of her long-lashed eyes and whinnied as the thing continued walking towards us, making for the metal gate I had lazily closed by hanging the chain loosely over it. I quickly mounted Sugar bareback before she bolted and watched as the creature reached forward, took hold of the chain with one of the tendrils attached to its arm, and began pulling it in jerky motions until it fell out, clanking loudly against the metal poles of the gate. The creature took a few shaky steps forward before falling on all fours and charging at us with a jerky, unpredictable motion.
I felt my throat seize up, unable to yell out. Sugar whinnied and reared slightly, before leaping forward and over the fence like she was goddamn Epona or something. She charged through the trees expertly, dodging them, hopping their roots. Every so often I ducked low under a branch. I could hear it crashing behind us, trying to keep up. I glanced back and saw it right behind us, reaching forward. Its face was expressionless, but I could tell that it was looking right at me. One of the tendrils on its arm touched Sugar’s flank and she screamed, bolting forward even faster. The creature suddenly stopped, falling back behind the trees.
We crashed into the clearing the stable was in and I immediately saw the headlights from Dad’s car parked next to the house. Sugar galloped towards them and slid to a stop scaring the crap out of Dad and the man who owned the place. I told them there was something in the woods, something chasing us, and their faces fell. They each grabbed a shotgun and checked the perimeter while the owner’s wife and I looked after Sugar, trying to calm her. There was blackish blood running down her side from the place the creature had touched her. I knew what had hurt her, what had happened, but told Dad and everyone else that it had to be from a branch or something. I’m not so sure they believed me though; the wound was…strange, leaf shaped with dozens and dozens of tiny circular puncture marks similar to those a lamprey might make. We treated the wound and put Sugar in a clean, safe stable, locking the doors behind us. She looked okay, we thought she was okay…
She died not long after, they said she died peacefully, in her sleep, but sometimes I wonder. Dad never let me ride at th¬at stable again, but it didn’t matter, it didn’t stop, and I still saw the creature almost every week after that; it always seemed to creep up from the edge of the forest in weird jerky movements, like it was hiding, like it didn’t want me to see it—each night I saw it, it had crept a little bit closer from the trees, closer to my window. It always looked as if it was staring directly at me. Always. It went from being a major threat to a minor annoyance, and I started ignoring it, pretending it didn’t exist.
Five years later, I moved all the way across the country to the Pacific North West for school, it was a nice place, sure, but expensive and I missed the horses. The city was big, though not big enough for me to hide from the trees. But for the first few months I was there, I saw nothing. And so, slowly, meek, another thought crept out. It was stupid, but it stayed, lingering in my mind, unspoken: maybe that…thing wouldn’t be able to follow me out here. Maybe I had finally escaped its torment.
It started when I moved out of the dorms and into my own apartment. It started at night, I was alone—I began hearing this soft clicking noise. It almost sounded like someone tapping the glass on my window or my coffee table with their nail. I usually ignored it, thinking it was just some weird quirk of the place finally making an appearance now that the weather had changed and the furnace was on. And then, one night in the middle of summer, I heard it, louder, insistent, someone tapping on the door that lead to my balcony. I stood up, annoyed, before growing afraid. What if it was some creep…or worse…
I made my way over, not even realizing I was tiptoeing, opened the curtain and there it was, right there, gazing back at me with its beady black eyes. I covered my mouth, trying to squeeze back a scream, but it didn’t work, and the sound of it echoed long and loud around my room. The creature turned its head—it had never heard me scream before—and the tiny slit that was its mouth quivered for a moment as if it were about to smile.
I took a few steps back, searching for something to throw at the glass, to scare it away when I heard it. A knock—loud, demanding—at my front door.
“Hey, you okay in there?”
It was probably one of my neighbors drawn over by my scream. The creature looked over to my door then back at me. Another knock sounded out and the creature turned and leapt of the side of my balcony. I ran over, unlocked the balcony door, and glanced out. The creature was ridiculously tall, but, as it walked away, I saw that its legs were slowly descending like rubber, like it had no bones. And I realized that it had somehow extended its limbs, that’s how it reached my balcony, and maybe that was how it had been following me everywhere—distance wasn’t a problem when every step covered miles.
Another knock sounded out, jarring me from my speculations, and I walked over to the front door and yelled through it, telling my neighbor that I was just watching a scary movie, that there was nothing wrong, that I was sorry I woke him.
“No problem,” he said, “If you need anything, don’t hesitate.”
That month, not even a week after that incident, I flew back home—Dad was dying. I took the last flight out that day, hoping to get there before he was gone for good. I didn’t. Arrived at the hospital right as he was taking his last breath. I sat, distraught, in the lobby, too afraid to look at him, in shock, until an old lady and man offered to take me somewhere. I looked up and recognized them—the owners of the stable. Not knowing what else to do, I nodded, and we left.
We ended up in one of those late-night breakfast places and I ordered some pancakes and black coffee, but ended up only drinking the coffee. After a few moments of silence, I finally spoke up, but not about Dad…it was too soon and I wasn’t thinking right. Instead, I asked a question that had been on my mind for years.
“Do you know about the…the creature on your property?”
“The what,” the man hissed while beside him his wife pressed her lips together and set down her fork.
I met his gaze, unsure if he thought I was crazy or if he saw them too, but, tired of keeping it secret, I pressed on. “Way back when I was still riding at your stable, there was this…thing, long and white and humanoid. It started following me. That night, years ago, when Sugar was hurt…that creature, it must’ve wounded her.”
He looked at me, the concern growing on his features. Finally, he said, “You’re not…uh, you’re not still seeing it, are you?”
I met his gaze, wondering what to say, and ended up with, “No, no…no, I’m not. I was just…well, I just wanted to know I wasn’t crazy or something, you know?”
He didn’t reply immediately, but sat looking at me, like he was sizing me up. “Your dad said…before he died,” he looked away, picking up his coffee nervously.
He looked back at me, “He said he wanted you to know that you’re not the only one who’s seen…well…” He cleared his throat and paused for a beat, then said, “You must be tired.” And I knew he was done talking. And I was tired so I didn’t press him. Never did speak to them, or see them, again. Wondered what happened to them, where they are now.
That night, unable to stay at my empty childhood home, I stayed at a hotel, but I couldn’t sleep. Not a wink. So, I got in my rental, equipped with a lantern and a bat, and made my way to the stable, not knowing why, only knowing that I had to. The stable was derelict, abandoned now, and I knew I shouldn’t be there. It was stupid, I know.
I parked next to the old house the owners had left years ago and hopped out with the light and the bat, ready. At first, I was only going to stay around the stable, see what I could see, but my curiosity got the best of me and I began creeping my way through the darkened woods towards the pasture. Every noise, the wind, the trees, my own breathing, put me on edge, but I made it there without incident.
The pasture was old now and the fence was broken. I found myself finally tearing up at the memories I had in this place, memories of Sugar, of Dad—
I turned, my heart racing. I heard the clicking noise again, and again, and again. It sounded almost like applause or maybe even laughter. And as I turned around in a large arc, shining the light through the trees, I saw them, hundreds of them, staring out at me through the gaps between the trees—faces. White, small, bald, horrific. Some were smiling slightly, others were frowning, some were the same size as the creature I knew, others were smaller, and the rest were enormous, and, even in their crouched positions, their heads almost touched the tops of the trees. They were all watching me, observing me.
I felt myself starting to hyperventilate and knew I had to get out of there. So, I ran and ran, hearing them crunching along behind me, beside me, keeping up. How I made it to my car without being harmed, I don’t know, but as I pulled out, my hand touched the pack of emergency matches I kept in the center console and for one wild moment I thought of burning them all with the forest they lived in, then I thought better of it and sped away. As I turned onto the main road, my headlights hit the tree-line and I saw their beady black eyes glinting from the shadows between the trees.
After that, I moved to Colorado, to Golden to be exact; Denver and Boulder were way too expensive, and while I would’ve settled in Greeley, I didn’t really want to smell or smell like cow shit all the time—horse shit was enough for me. Golden wasn’t necessarily cheap, but it was worth it; I had just bought my own horses and wanted a place near the outer edges of the city, where the houses run few and far between, where there’s space enough to ride.
I hadn’t seen the creature for a whole year, so I thought I had finally, finally escaped it. Maybe it needed to be by large bodies of water to survive, or maybe it had given up, or maybe—hopefully—it had died, got run over, twice, or shot by shotgun shells, or burnt by fire.
A few weeks ago, it started again, that weird clicking noise, and I sighed knowing what would come soon after. On nights where the moon was full, I would see the shadow of it through the blinds, just standing there, tapping, tapping on my window. It went on like this for days and I was quickly losing sleep and my sanity.
Yesterday, after yet another sleepless night, I decided to make the drive up to Boulder. I just needed to get away. I went to a local pub, met some cool, helpful Boulderites, walked around on Pearl Street for a bit, and, as the sun started to fall over the Flatirons, I said my goodbyes to the place and the people and made my way back to Golden.
The drive from Boulder to Golden is decently long, but it’s beautiful, with the Flatirons framing one side and the plains spread out open on the other. For the first time in a long time, I was at peace. Maybe, just maybe, this would all end soon, and I’d be free to live my life as I saw fit rather than in hiding or fear. All these years, and I still didn’t know what that creature wanted, why it was following me, how it could follow me. And as the sun slipped behind all those rows of Rockies, I sighed, thinking about finally losing it for good.
Then I noticed something…something shadowed and long and fast sprinting next to my car. I took a deep breath and looked over. And there it was. Running alongside my car like it was nothing. I was going almost seventy at this point, but it was somehow able to keep stride. It tapped on the window with one of its vine-like tendrils like it was taunting me, then opened its tiny mouth, revealing a gaping hole with a triple split tongue. It didn’t have any teeth. And out of its mouth poured some weird black goo; it smeared across the driver’s side window, looking almost red in the moonlight. And then, in a wretched, foul voice, it spoke. It spoke like it was mocking me, my brief happiness. I have never ever heard it speak before, and even through the closed window, even at that speed, I heard it loud and clear. It was horrific.
“Hah! Found you, found you, found you!”
It suddenly jerked to a halt, and I sped away, watching it grow smaller and smaller in the rear-view mirror until it blended back into the shadows…