Tuesday, October 6, 2020

The Menagerie

 So I ran a little series of microfictions over on Twitter in honor of getting to the beginning of October (and the end of the week). For each reply, I would describe the replier's very own monster. Here's what all we conjured: 

1. It slides in like a snake, twisting and sleek and fast; but its head is a grasping hand, and the palm of the hand is a circular mouth full of teeth. It unfolds, sprouting rows of arms down both sides; it skitters and grasps and constricts, holding you still, stealing your breath.

2. A soft, whispering voice that rises from the pile of bones hidden beneath the drift of leaves at the side of your house. It offers sympathy and advice, mostly; but sometimes it asks uncomfortable questions: "Do you remember who murdered me?" You tell it you don't, but... maybe?

3. You've only ever seen it as a faint white mist, usually not even that. It's a cold place on the floor, a draft across your shoulders, your food no sooner out of the microwave than it needs to be warmed again. Once, it froze a mouse to death; but surely that's nothing to fear?

4. You're never sure whether it's the door itself or the things inside, nor whether it's you or a part of this place; but sometimes at night you look up to find a door that wasn't there, open to darkness, the gleam of hundreds upon hundreds of eyes within. They only ever look... so far.  

5. A baby's ghost, screaming its need for food, for care, for attention. You can hear it all through the house, and sometimes outside; in moonlight, you can see it on the floor of the old guest bedroom. No matter how you try, your hands pass through it. You cannot comfort the child.

6. A dark shape passing across the moon; in its shadow your house shifts and creaks, pressed down by a weight that threatens to flatten it. A small bowl of blood in front of your door, and the threat passes harmless by... if you remember to keep the blood ready. Did you?

7. A waking nightmare, nebulous and small; it wraps smoky tendrils around you and the world goes cold and slow and strange. You struggle, fingers slipping through it, desperate to brush it loose before it can feed on the fear it gave you and grow larger.   

8. It was cute, at first: small, fluffy, with big eyes and a head just a little too large for its body. But as the dark of the moon drew near it grew larger, stronger, crueler. Its fur fell out. It rose to two feet, stood straight, wore clothes, smiled. It was ready for the hunt.

9. A strange piece of furniture, always something different, always in a new spot in your home. It quivers in anticipation if you approach; if anyone ever touches it, something terrible will happen. You left it behind in a move once, but it followed. Animals avoid it, but kids?  

10. A scuttling behind the walls. At first you thought something had gotten in, perhaps a rat or squirrel. But the sound follows you from place to place, building to building: scraping, clawing, trying to make a hole. Sometimes it's in the ceiling, once beneath a concrete floor.

11. A shadow that reaches for you out of the corner of your eye. Each time you turn to look at it, it pulls back and pretends it was only ever a normal shadow, perhaps from a table or chair. It has never touched you, but you know that someday you will turn too slowly to prevent it...

12. It comes with the rains, rising up from the soil: slender, tall, with whip-thin arms that are whipcrack fast. It looks in windows, scratches at doors. It leaves behind dead things when the rains die down: a rabbit, a squirrel, a cat. Nothing larger, though; not so far.

13. A small homunculus, perhaps as tall as your knee: wizened, twisted, and feral. It visits at night, scampering, capering, and bringing you gifts of bones. (All sorts of bones. All.) In return it sometimes squats on your chest when you sleep, inhaling the warm air from your lungs. 

14. It's a soft thing, fluttering gently in the darkness; the faintest hint of light and it's gone. It touches your sleeping throat and steals your voice, to speak with as it own until dawn. You find you can neither move nor make noise until it's gone. 

15. A nightmare, shadowy and strong, with fingers like slender knives. Eyeless, it sees you; voiceless, it calls for you. It chases you through surreal dreamscapes: derelict hospitals, endless cemeteries, high towers connected by narrow stone bridges. You must run until you awaken.

16. It seems innocent at first: names briefly forgotten, shared stories unrecalled. Interactions and responses that are off-key, tone-deaf. They stop telling you about their lives. Then the changes come, and you can barely recognize your friends for the monsters growing inside them.

17. A shimmering, coppery ghost haunts you, but erratically. Oddly, it appears most often when you're awake, or maybe those are the times you remember it. It's hungry, always hungry, but it never takes too much. It feeds on your Time. When it comes, you lose minutes or hours.

18. You've seen it before, gleaming silver by moonlight or orange and gold by fire. Its body is shaped like an owl, but its face is almost human and its feathers are polished razors. It perches outside your window, whispering secrets that you never wanted to know: yours, or others'.   

19. An awakened nightmare which attends you constantly, drifting overhead or scuttling into corners. It is invisible to most; to you, it is a dark blot that sometimes takes more solid form. It devours any nightmares that emerge from your dreams, before they go to menace anyone else. 

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