I’d heard the same stories everyone else does. The ones that get featured on urban legend shows or even make it to the movie screen. The mothman in the U.S. or the owlman in the U.K., human-like monsters that showed up as portents of disaster. But since a series of severe earthquakes a couple months ago which damaged and destroyed cities around the world, rumors of them started showing up more and more frequently.
At first it was a snatch of conversation on the subway, or a whisper at the coffee shop. A thread or two posted on forums in corners of the Internet most often inhabited by fights about whether lights in the sky were related to UFOs or Nephilim. The corners you laughed at as they traded rumors about a trove of Illuminati documents which revealed the secret thread that tied all conspiracy theories together. But unlike talk of Masonic puppet masters, these topics spread far beyond the fringe theorists.
What began here and there with hesitant descriptions were met with replies by others who had the same experience: a thing that appeared in dreams and whose memory lingered into the waking hours. They talked of a thing that watched from the distance. From the outside. Of its ominous, alien presence. Of the cold dread its sight filled them with. And of how it could neither be reached nor escaped. A few talked of having seen it out of the corner of their eyes in isolated places late at night. Darker still were the commenters saying that they knew people who had those dreams and then later seemed inexplicably changed. There was no telling how many had really dreamt of something, how many were repeating rumors, and how much was fiction written to one up other posters or feed the feelings of unrest.
I chalked it up to much the same things that spawned other urban legends. A lot of people had died in those earthquakes and aftershocks were still coming. People huddled in their churches and talked of the end of days coming, and frauds hawked their survival food buckets. People were scared. A story grew from the seed of dread and uncertainty that saturated their daily lives. The early chatter provided the foundation around which later details would coalesce as the story was built from half remembered dreams to into a myth. A monster whose grip would fade when the aftershocks did and be forgotten with the recovery.
Then I dreamt of it too. It was at the edge of a birch forest, faceless and unmoving. And it was there night after night. Unable to shrug it off, I gave it a stupid name to try to rob it of its ability to frighten me. To make it familiar. To domesticate it. I drank more and more coffee to keep myself awake as long as possible so that when I finally crashed my sleep would be dreamless. There was too much on my plate to let a nightmare haunt my days.
Two weeks later, waking up to the sound of my buzzing alarm I was startled to find myself breathing raggedly, sweaty, and afraid. Though I couldn’t remember even dreaming, I had the unnerving impression that in the darkness of my sleep it had spoken to me. And more, I couldn’t escape the nagging thought that despite its eldritch language I had understood its words.
Art, story and profile by frederick.
A thank you to Princess for their guide on pet profiles and sample code.