Our Pet Monster

TW: Mentions of Pedophilia

When we moved to Pine Drive, I never expected to find a conspiracy among the kids there.

I was an only child and a loner, thanks to my parents always moving. My dad’s job had him hopping from state to state. It was a pretty tough going if you wanted to make friends. But he promised that we’d stay at least six months here, so I had a chance to make at least one friend.

And whadya know, on my block, there were a ton of kids to make friends with.

I didn’t even really have to try. Two days after moving in, the Langley twins Diana and David were pounding on my door, asking who owned that bike parked in the front yard and if they wanted to play. I was shy but the twins were ecstatic to meet me.

Apparently their group had an odd number before I moved in and they needed equal teams to play their games with.

There was Alicia, who was six, she was the baby but she was very sweet. The oldest was Fletcher who was thirteen but his social skills were a bit behind so he didn’t mind hanging out with a bunch of nine and ten year olds. I think there was about ten of us all in all.

But I learned soon enough that there was a secret each of them shared.

It started when Diana asked for some of the leftovers from dinner, we’d had a roast chicken and the twins were over. My mom happily complied but asked why.

Diana just giggled and didn’t answer.

Pretty soon I noticed that a lot of the kids had this habit of taking leftovers. Even tiny Alicia would scrape carrots, her favorite veggie, into a plastic baggie and hide it in her pockets. I became very curious, very quickly.

I managed to get Diana alone so I could ask her, she was the first real friend I had who was another girl. So she was the easiest to get along with.

“Diana? What’s with all the leftovers?”

Diana zipped up her backpack and grinned.

“We’re just about to show you, actually. Promise you won’t tell your mom?”

I nodded. Of course I wouldn’t tell! I might’ve not had many friends in the past, but I knew how to keep a secret!

Diana let me carry a clear plastic container full of beef stew, it was cold and I think it was starting to go off, but we marched down the street to collect the others. Fletcher had brought an overcooked steak, all burnt and charcoaled. Alicia had her baggie of carrots and green beans, she hated green beans but I caught her snitching one or two of the baby carrots to munch on. David had leftover hotdogs. Ellis had half of a chicken sandwich. The list went on.

Soon it was a tiny parade, walking down the street. I kept looking around as if I expected a car to pull up to take us to our destination. Was this some sort of food drive?

“Oh, check it out! He’ll love it!”

David ran ahead and knelt by a dead squirrel. It’d been hit by a car and was covered in flies, but David’s eyes were alight. He picked up a stick and started to peel it off the ground.

I gagged when I heard the sickly rip of the crushed body lift off the pavement, but the kids all seemed overjoyed at this prospect. David pulled a shopping bag from his backpack and nudged it in before taking the bag and holding it out to me.

“You’re new here! You can give it to him!”

My eyes burned as the stench of rot filled my nostrils, but I nodded. I hadn’t had friends before, I didn’t even contemplate that they might be tricking me.

We marched on until we reached the house on the corner.

When we first pulled onto this street, I was afraid that was the house we’d move into, but we drove on past before I couldn’t make out much more than peeled white paint on the shutters and knee tall grass in the front yard. Now that we were closer, I could see that this house was in complete shambles. The windows were all smashed, the glass remaining in the pane looking like monstrous teeth. The front path was entirely overgrown, the few stones left of what was once a lovely footpath crooked and teetering.

David didn’t hesitate though, he marched through the grass and knocked on the front door. “Bogeyman, Bogeyman, we’ve come with presents!” He chanted before looking back at the others.

Everyone took a deep breath and shouted, “Bogeyman, Bogeyman, save room for dessert!”

No response. But David seemed satisfied and he turned around. “To the cellar!” He proclaimed before hopping into the grass and hurrying to the backyard. I followed, confused but entirely enchanted with this game we were playing.

The cellar door was open and David walked inside with no fear at all. I followed and as soon as we were all inside, Diana shut the door behind us.

It was pitch black in here. It smelled like mildew and I could hear drips of water pattering on the cement floor.

Then I heard something else.

Footsteps.

Someone’s bare feet were making light smacks, and as my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I could make out a hunched figure. It favored its left leg, hardly placing weight on it. I could hardly breathe.

“… Who’s new here?”

It could speak. It sounded like a man who’d spent most of his life smoking, his voice raspy and dry. David sounded proud as he spoke up.

“Her name’s Adaline. She has a present for you!”

The man’s silhouette moved, as his head cocked to the side. “She does?”

Despite there being no visual way to tell which child was which, the man limped through the crowd of children, his hands reaching about until they rested on my face.

I nearly screamed. His fingernails were ragged and sharp, and his breath stank.

But I could almost make out his smile.

“What do you have for me, child?”

Trembling, I held out the bag holding the dead squirrel. Why on earth would he like that?

His hands released my face and grasped onto the bag. I heard him gasp.

“Oh! How thoughtful. Thank you, Adaline.”

He stepped back and I heard a crunch as he lifted the squirrel up to his mouth. It didn’t take a genius to figure out he was eating the squirrel. I heard him swallow and he wiped free his mouth.

“Is there anything else?”

Immediately the other kids laid their offerings at the Bogeyman’s feet. I placed the stew there as well. We all backed away as the creature examined each and every one. He sounded near tears when he spoke up again.

“Thank you, my children… now, who wants a story?”

Everyone gasped. “Me! Me! Me!” They chanted.

The Bogeyman laughed.

“Very well. I’ll tell you the stories of Aesop and Grimm, the proper way.”

He didn’t get any book, he just sat on the moist ground. Everyone else sat as well as he began to tell stories.

His voice, despite sounding pained, was deep and soothing. He told the story of the Tortoise and the Hare, where they raced to the finish line but the Tortoise waited to make sure that the Hare made it at all. He told the story of Cinderella, where instead of a glass slipper she received a glass sword in which she conquered the whole world. He even talked about Sleeping Beauty, where she woke up to find she’d given birth to twins and that she’d been married. How on earth that happened, well, it flew over my head at the time. But I fell in love with the new versions of fairytales.

Finally, the Bogeyman coughed harshly.

“I think that’s all I can manage for today. Run along home now, I’ll see you again, I hope?” He asked.

Everyone immediately chanted yes, even a few kids ran forward to give the stranger a hug. I stayed back though. I felt nervous, even if he did tell such wonderful stories.

We all escaped through the cellar and walked out. The sun was already low, we’d spent a whole afternoon down there.

We walked back in silence… for the most part.

I had questions.

“Who is that, in the basement?” I asked.

David shrugged. “I dunno, really.”

“We found him after he was hit by a car and at the side of the road,” Diana kicked a stone so hard it flew far down the side of the road, “What jerks! He’s so kind! We’re helping take care of him, just for now, and he promised he’ll return the favor to us someday.”

That wasn’t arguable I supposed. If he was injured that explained why he limped, and he hadn’t seemed threatening. I still couldn’t get over the chill I felt when I heard him eat the squirrel.

The next few weeks I managed to get into the whole thing, the ceremony of announcing our presence going through the back, feeding the Bogeyman and being told fun stories. I’d made a habit of going through the fridge after my parents went to bed, to search for any leftovers that they wouldn’t miss. I made note that the Bogeyman seemed to prefer meat and hated overly processed sugary things, like twinkies. I’d given him one and the next week I spotted it in the corner, still wrapped in its plastic.

The Bogeyman was at least polite enough not to turn it down, I considered.

Then my Uncle Gary moved in with us.

I wasn’t really close with my mother’s brother, but he’d been going through a divorce and had no place to stay so my mom let him sleep in the guest room.

Right away I didn’t like him. He smelled like cigarettes all the time and kept beer in the fridge. When I came next to the Bogeyman’s house, I could hear his distaste for the smell that had started to sink into my clothes. But he was too polite to mention it, and I just made sure to take a shower before I came to visit.

But then I caught Uncle Gary peeping on me.

I’d just hopped out of the shower and grabbed my towel when I turned just enough to realize the door was cracked. Immediately it shut. I quickly dressed and headed out to see who it was.

Uncle Gary was sitting in the living room, chatting with my parents. He looked up to me and looked flustered. “Oh, sorry Adaline. I though the bathroom was unoccupied.”

I knew he was lying. My parents brushed it off and seemed unconcerned, but I felt sick. I went to the Bogeyman’s house that day extra quiet.

On the way out, I felt that familiar hand grasp my arm.

“Are you okay, Adaline?” The Bogeyman rasped.

I jerked away and put on a smile. “I’m fine, Mr. Bogeyman. I promise,” I lied.

The Bogeyman didn’t push it farther, just went back to his corner to sort out the food he got for the week.

But it wasn’t fine. I wasn’t fine.

Uncle Gary started to purposely sneak around to places where I was alone. He’d ask about my day, touch my shoulder and back a little too friendly. I’d move away as fast as possible and make an excuse. He still tried to peek on me in the bathroom too, I’d not get out of the shower until I was fully dressed, keeping my clothes on the floor next to me. They’d usually end up getting wet but it was all I could do.

I wanted so badly to tell my mom. But whenever I worked up the courage, Uncle Gary would show up and start chattering away. I couldn’t get any alone time with her. I started losing sleep. I practically lived at Diana and David’s house, claiming that I didn’t like smelling like cigarette smoke all the time but I think they knew there was something bigger that was the problem. They never asked. I never told.

One night came and my parents went out on a date. I was left home alone, and thought Uncle Gary was headed out too.

Turns out he just went to the corner store to pick up more beer, and he invited me to hang out on the couch with him.

Despite me practically sitting on the couch’s arm, Uncle Gary sat as he could to me, turning on some R rated movie with a lot of violence. I didn’t want to be there. Not at all.

“So Adaline, you’re about ten now, right?” Uncle Gary asked.

I gulped. “Y… yeah. I’m actually about to turn eleven,” I said, trying to think of an excuse to get out of there.

Uncle Gary mock gasped. “Eleven! And I’ve been unable to give you birthday spanks all these years!” He laughed as if he said something funny. I just felt nauseous. Uncle Gary moved closer and brushed the hair from my face. I flinched. “You know, Adaline, back a few hundred years ago, you’d already be married?”

My stomach lurched. “W…. well, glad I wasn’t born back then,” I laughed, starting to stand. “I uh, just remembered, I was supposed to sleep over at Diana’s tonight-“

Uncle Gary grabbed my wrist forcefully. I turned and saw his smile turn dark.

“How about you sleep over with me instead? In the guest room? We’ll have some fun, I promise.”

I froze. I wanted to cry. Curl up into a little ball. Yell for my mom.

Instead the story of Snow White flashed through my head, what Snow White did when she was being kissed by a boy she didn’t like.

I fell forward and punched my uncle right in the groin.

Uncle Gary yelled and I yanked free, bolting out the front door.

I knew my Uncle would look where Diana and David lived first. I didn’t want them getting hurt. So I just took off running down the block where I knew he wouldn’t check.

The Bogeyman House.

I didn’t bother heading back through the cellar, I burst through the front door and slammed it behind me, gasping for breath. Thank god it was unlocked.

I’d never actually been in this part of the house before. There was a few pieces of furniture, covered in sheets and dust. I walked up to the couch and wiped my finger on it. I came up with enough dust to make a whole new sheet.

I wrinkled my nose and turned around, deciding to hide someplace deeper in the house, just in case my Uncle came around and peered in the front window.

I came face to face with the Bogeyman.

I’d only ever seen him in the dark before. And now I could understand why he’d made sure that was the case.

His face was gaunt and pale, the skin covered in pockmarks and old scars. His eyes were glazed over a milky white. But it was his mouth that filled me with horror.

His thin lips were pulled back into an animalistic snarl, a thin yellow film covering his gums and tongue. His teeth were rows and rows of jagged points, all filled with rot and decay. And they’d have no problem chewing up a squirrel… or a child.

I almost screamed when I was tackled to the floor, his spidery cold fingers wrapped around my throat as he leaned in to snap at my face-

He froze.

And inhaled.

“… A… Adaline?”

I started to bawl. I was scared, and tired, and thought the Bogeyman was going to eat my face for breaking into his house.

Instead the Bogeyman slowly released me, moving back. He blinked a few times as if that would help clear his vision. “You smell like that mint shampoo. It’s Adaline,” He said, mostly talking to himself. He got up and winced as he put any weight on his left leg. “It’s why I tell you to announce yourself. I can’t bloody see. Come on now, let’s go into the kitchen.”

We sat on the floor together, the kitchen littered with gnawed on plastic containers and water bottles. The Bogeyman went into the fridge and managed to pull out a water bottle after blindly groping for a bit. It was lukewarm, but I gladly drank it. He squatted beside me and sighed. “Now, tell me what happened.”

It all came pouring out. The peeping, the uncomfortable touching, what was implied on the couch. I admitted it all to him and even started crying a few more times. The Bogeyman shushed me and rubbed my back, telling me to take another sip of water before I kept going.

The water bottle was empty and I was cried out. I leaned against the Bogeyman, not caring if his ragged clothes were covered in filth and smelled like mold. “I’m so scared. I know your stories tell me that I shouldn’t be, but… but I am.”

The Bogeyman softly caressed my hair. “Oh, no dear, no,” He said, shaking his head and then tilting my chin to look at his gruesome face. “My stories are not to tell you don’t be afraid. They tell you to have courage, but you can have courage and be afraid. And I say you’re a very courageous little girl.”

Relief poured through me and I gave the Bogeyman a hug. He went stiff before he slowly hugged me back, resting his head next to my neck. I don’t know how long I hugged him, but when I finally let go the Bogeyman seemed at ease.

“You’re tired. You can sleep in the room upstairs, all right? In the morning, please, do not tell your parents you were ever here. Promise?”

I nodded.

“Promise.”

The bed was hard and the blankets smelled damp, but I was so tired I immediately fell asleep.

When I woke up, I was in my own bed. I would’ve thought it was all a dream had it not been for the dirt on my clothes. I changed and went into the living room to see if my parents were home.

They were home all right.

So were several cops.

My mom saw me and gasped. “Adaline! Oh dear god, Adaline!” She ran up to me and gave me a hug so tight my ribs nearly cracked as she began to cry.

Last night my parents had come home to a horror movie. The living room was trashed and there had been signs of a struggle, and no one to be found. Early this morning a jogger had found, well, what was left of my Uncle Gary.

Someone, or something, had eaten him.

The police came to the house to find that Uncle Gary’s room had been set up in a way to display all of his sins. Pictures of several little girls, including two or three of me, were taped to the walls. Over the bed were scattered hair ties, barrettes, and beaded bracelets… trophies of his previous victims. Even his personal computer was on and certain movies were moved to the desktop showing what had happened when Uncle Gary got these little girls by themselves.

My mother thought that I was dead too. I wasn’t in my bed a few hours ago, even the cops could confirm that.

I told them what happened, mostly. Uncle Gary made me scared, I ran away and kept running into the nearby forest and hid out there until early morning, when I came back. They believed me, especially when they found the dirt on my clothes.

The next day I went to the Bogeyman House with a bag of jerky, announced myself, and went in.

The Bogeyman was gone. The house was empty.

I went to the Twins’ house wondering if they knew what happened, but he and Diana were in their room, inconsolable.

Apparently the Bogeyman had told them he was going away, for now. He thanked them for their kindness and went on his way. I joined them in weeping. I didn’t tell them what had happened, for fear they’d blame me for him going away, but the guilt hung so heavy on my chest I was glad when we finally moved away from Pine Drive.

I grew up. I started holding clubs at whatever schools I was placed at for abuse and molestation victims. At the age of twelve I was at the head of a school rally, telling hundreds of other students what had almost happened between me and my Uncle. That my story was an exception, that many others didn’t have the luck to get away. That they had nothing to be ashamed of. They had more courage than anyone else in the room.

Several kids came forward admitting they’d been touched or raped by their relatives. Whether or not they pressed charges, I stood with them. They needed their own Bogeyman.

When I graduated I married my highschool sweetheart, a boy named Jonas that helped support my meetings and support groups. We had a pair of twins that I named Eli and Elana.

Then we moved back to Pine Drive.

I had gotten a job there as a counselor. I didn’t move back into my old house, rather the new one that was built over the Bogeyman House. Apparently there had been a fire a few years after I moved away and the whole place went down. A new house was built above it, almost a clone to the one previous.

The only original part of the house left was the basement, and I laughed so hard I nearly cried when I found that damn Twinkie there, still in its wrapper. I left it there and told Jonas that it was our new pet. He thought that was a hoot.

About two months after we’d settled in, there was a knock on the door. I got up to head to it when I heard the chant.

“Bogeyman, Bogeyman, we’ve come with presents! Bogeyman, Bogeyman, save room for dessert!”

There were only two or three kids this time, but they turned and marched to the back. Silently, I made my way to the door leading to the basement, before turning back around and going to the fridge. I grabbed the meatloaf I’d made yesterday and headed down.

The kids walked in, each carrying a Ziploc container of some odd food. The lights were off and I kept them off. For seconds, everything was silent.

Then I heard the closet door open and a familiar set of footsteps behind me, a set that favored the left leg.  

“… Are you back for another story, Adaline?”

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