You or Him?

I got the worst news of my life on my lunch break six months ago. I was feeling pretty good about myself, I’d received high praise from my boss and I felt like a promotion was coming my way any time. I turned my phone back on to see six missed calls from my wife and a voice message telling me that I needed to come to the hospital right now.  

Cara had been home from work that day with a headache. Just a headache, she told me that morning, she would be fine after some rest and I shouldn’t worry about her.

Someone had broken into the house and beaten her within an inch of her life.  

Seeing her in that hospital bed nearly killed me. I couldn’t even recognize her with how bruised and swollen her face was. She had several broken ribs, a concussion, several lacerations on her back and chest. The worst of it was her hands. The bastard had repeatedly stomped on them and shattered each of her fingers with an alarming precision.  

My wife is… was an artist. Even with physical therapy she might never have the finesse she once possessed. 

At first I just thought it was luck Cara was still alive. But much to my horror, that… that animal had left her alive on purpose.  

You can’t suffer if you’re dead, after all.  

Cara went from a vibrant, optimistic person to a shell. A shell filled with pain and terror that knew that the bastard that hurt her wasn’t going away just like that, and that he wasn’t human.  

The doctors told me it was trauma that made Cara believe that her attacker was a monster, almost eight feet tall with claws like swords and red glowing eyes. I, of course, believed them because monsters aren’t real. Cara’s mind just made her believe it was. I think she doubted herself a long time before the monster came back.

I never saw it, of course. But a few months later, after most of the bruises had faded and bones started to heal, Cara called me begging me to come home as ‘he was there’. I dialed 911 on the way, assuming that the guy was like right outside our door. I got there just when they did and we found Cara cowering in the closet, pointing quietly at a set of scratch marks on our bedroom wall.

She hadn’t seen anyone. Just the scratches.

Thankfully the police were more than understanding, given what Cara had just gone through. I wasn’t upset either, she’d been through a serious trauma and it would take time for her to get over it.  

It wouldn’t take much for Cara to be set off. A new scuff mark on the floor, things going missing or seemingly being moved… one time I had to come home from work because Cara swore she heard something move in the basement. Turns out a couple of old boxes had toppled over, nothing more.

It was hard not getting upset with her after a while. But, and I don’t know how, I managed to keep my temper in check. I’d remind myself that she had gone through something so horrible that she’d not be able to live in peace for a long time.

The closest I came to actually losing it was the same day I found out Cara’s monster was real.

It’d been a bad day for her. She’d left her keys in the bedroom rather than by the door so she assumed that ‘the monster’ had moved them and had a meltdown over that, physical therapy had gone terribly, and it all came to a head when she started screaming about something being in the closet.

I’d had a lousy day myself, my boss was getting upset with me over constantly leaving work early to check on my wife and it was starting to feel ridiculous, coming home just to find that that she’d lost her slippers.

Gritting my teeth, I remember ripping open the door, about to shout that there was nothing there when I saw it crawl back into the attic.  

I don’t think it had intended on getting caught quite yet. I only saw a piece of its inky, scaled hide and a curled tail before it zipped out of sight. If I’d been a second later, I wouldn’t have seen it at all.  

I tore apart that attic looking for that son of a bitch and didn’t find a trace of him, except for a few more scratch marks in the dust. I probably spent hours going over every inch of our house to find it and found nothing.

I spent the rest of the night begging my wife’s forgiveness for not believing in her. Bless her, she forgave me.

Now that I knew that the threat was real though, everything seemed to get so much worse. It stopped being so subtle. I catch glimpses of it around the corner, only to run over and not see a thing. Once I saw its tail whisk into the kitchen where my wife was and I nearly had a heart attack as I screamed for her to run. She did run, but the creature wasn’t in the kitchen anymore. It was back to being just an imaginary monster.  

Before you ask, yes, we’ve tried everything I could think of. We stayed in hotels. We’re trying to buy a new house. I bought a gun and so did she. It doesn’t help. The thing’s too quick to get a shot off at and it follows us wherever we go, leaving scratches and hiding underneath beds until we get close enough for it to snatch at our ankles. And the house hunting is going as well as you’d expect with a single income household.  

I did all I could think of. Cara had one more option though. One she’d never told me before last night.

It was after three days of complete nothing. No scratches, no sounds, no sightings. But Cara seemed worse off than ever. After pressing her, she finally broke and told me the truth.  

The creature spoke to her. Before that first attack it gave her a choice once it had her cornered.

“You or him?”

Cara loves me. She would’ve never thrown me to the creature back then.

But that was almost six months ago, before weeks of pain, torment, and paranoia. So three days ago she finally broke when it once again asked ‘You or him?’. She told it it could have me now.  

I’m not upset with her. I know I should be livid, but this is the only way Cara can have some semblance of normalcy again. No more fear. Not again.  

I’m on the run, I’ve left Cara at home with what’s left of our savings and quit my job. Distance won’t deter the creature, I know it won’t. But I have to try.  

I don’t want to know what it’ll do to me once it catches up.

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