I crawl a cracked and broken path; if we make it we can all sit back and laugh, but I fear tomorrow I'll be crying

rating: +17+x

Tommy looked up at Iris, his eyes watering and his hands shaking.

"Iris, there's something under my bed!"

He grabbed Iris by the arm and led her to his bed stopping a few feet away from it, waiting expectantly. Iris sighed but still knelt down and checked.

A large lizard laid there, nestled inbetwixt a pile of books. She looked at it, then sighed again.

"Well, you don't have a monster, Tommy. You've got a lizard."

Tommy shrieked in delight.

"A lizard! I've always wanted one! Can we keep it? Please? Pleeeease Iris?"

Iris hesitated but a small smile crept across her face.

"Sure. Yeah, why not."

Tommy looked up at Iris, pure joy on his face.


Iris looked around the room as he knelt down on the floor and began talking to it.

Iris frowned.

"Wait, this isn't-"

She wheeled around to see Tommy, but he wasn't there.

"What the hell? Tommy? Where did you go?"

She checked outside and could see Tommy looking at the sky, his head tilted up to the clouds, and the lizard resting on his shoulder.

"How the fuck did he even get out there?! I only turned my back for a moment…"

Only for a moment. The thought rang in her head, a cacophony of clustered memories. It made her head hurt.

Iris ran outside. There were strong winds, and dark thunderclouds covered the sky.


He looked at her and spoke.

"Iris Thompson." Her name was spoken with such resolution. It scared her. "You killed me."

His voice was much deeper, and it sounded like multiple voices overlapping one another.

"What..?" She was confused. What was Tommy saying? She would never harm him…

Tommy continued talking.

"You will pay for your sins." He let out an eerie chuckle. "I will find you. I will kill you. And I will leave you behind, just like you did to me."

Tommy began to grow taller, his flesh becoming darker until it was as black as night, and his eyes, once a bright blue, were now a sunken yellow.

Tommy grabbed the lizard on his shoulder and swallowed it whole.

He licked his lips. A disgusting squelching sound emanating from his throat.

A thick, slime-like material began to cascade down his body, and bits and pieces of it dripped down into the grass as Tommy began to move towards her. A withered trail began to form.

"What-no! Tommy what's happening to you?!"

Iris couldn't move, her voice died in her throat and she could only watch in horror as the creature, no longer Tommy, moved towards her and extended its hand. She trembled as its mouth opened impossibly wide-


Iris awoke with a start, the deafening sound nearly making her fall out of bed. Her heart pounded in her chest as time seemed to slow. She tried to regulate her breathing. As she shakily sat up, she steadied herself on the soft mattress, and crossed the room to the window. Iris could see several townsmen, all yelling and pointing at something in the woods. The harsh pops of gunfire could be heard, all shots heading distinctly into the woods.

Iris didn't wait any longer; she grabbed her camera, swapping her nightdress for her normal clothes, and ran outside.

She crossed the road, looking at the woods all the while. Iris's eyes found the distinct form of Alexander Elkoan, the man who had agreed to talk to her about the inky-black creature. No one ever wanted to discuss it. It's as if they were trying to sequester the memory into a dark crevice, to never crawl out. But Iris knew that they could never really forget, as it came back every night to haunt them all over again.

As she watched him retreat into his house, she thought about the info he had told her. Elkoan insisted that they've been trying to kill it for years, but it seemed to be invincible. And still, they kept trying. Iris wondered why they even bothered anymore. Surely it was easier to move on? To just let the creature roam as it pleased?

No. That was a delusional thought. Somehow she knew, wherever they went, it'd surely follow.

Somewhere deep in the recesses of Iris's brain, she felt another twinge of remembrance.

It must be because she's looked at the photo of it for so long.

She pushed the feeling aside and continued walking, although she began to pick up the pace. There were several more loud booms, and she broke out into a jog.

Finally, she got to Elkoan's house, her knocking loud and impatient. Within seconds, the door opened.

Elkoan was a tall man, with black hair and slightly dark skin reminiscent of a Native American. He leaned against the door and stared down at Iris.

"What do you need, little miss Thompson?" Elkoan spoke, his voice at a silk-smooth, tenor register. In one hand was a rifle, in the other was a small dingy cloth. He wiped the barrel as Iris spoke. It seemed he came inside to reload and do the usual gun maintenance.

"Is it coming out now? The Old Man that is." Iris was apprehensive about being here at all. She despised thinking about the dark presence that laid just beyond the forest.

"Most likely soon. Now, if you'll excuse me, I do have to get going." Elkoan gently brushed past Iris, moving her out of his way, and walking out onto the muddied street.

"Hey!" Iris followed him, her tone and stance indignant. "We had a deal! You promised you would tell me all you knew about the Old Man."

"And have I not?" Elkoan quickened his pace, making it harder for Iris to keep up with him.

Iris thought about it for a moment. While it never seemed like Elkoan was lying, she felt like she was missing something important.

"Well, kind of, but-"

"Then I think it is best for you to leave. I believe that the sheriff is currently lining the ground with dynamite. It'd be very unfortunate for you to get caught in the blast radius." He stopped moving and turned to stare at Iris.

He took out a cigarette and began to smoke, staring at the forest.

"It's almost time." Elkoan's pulse quickened, his heart throbbing with warm blood. The hunt, the chase, it was a sick beauty to behold. And Elkoan reveled in it. Iris backed up reluctantly.

He grinned, a bit manically, as the sheriff ran to the edge of the forest and began to shout at some deputies, who ran into the forest.

There was a moment of heavy silence, the only sound being that of quiet breaths from the townsfolk, all watching, all waiting.

Iris could hear someone frantically shouting in the forest along with quick, panicked footsteps. One lone deputy ran to the edge of the forest and turned suddenly, a gun in his hand. The deputy shot into the forest until he ran out of bullets.

The deputy turned and shouted, "Blow it up! Blow it up right the hell now!"

Iris could see an ink-black hand reach out to rest on the deputy's shoulder, and that's when the explosives went off.

Iris could barely remember anything after that. The booms in quick succession, guns firing, the sheriff being decapitated by the monster, people being ripped into bite-sized pieces.

The sounds left her ears ringing.

She saw a little girl lying on the ground, her chest barely rising up and down, indicating that she was still alive, still in this hellish life. Iris ran towards the girl, but she was just too far away. The Old Man moved towards a deputy, giving Iris just enough time to reach the little girl. Iris picked her up but stopped in her tracks when she heard that damned laughter.

Heh. Hee hee.

Her blood ran ice-cold.

The Old Man emerged from behind a house, its yellow eyes locking on her. It laughed again, its face stuck in a grotesque smile.

"Oh fuck. Oh fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck-" Iris ran with the little girl in her arms, but where could she go?

She spotted a saloon and ran inside hiding beneath the bar counter, in a big cabinet where the drinks were supposed to be. Iris fit the little girl in the cabinet next to her, closed the doors quietly, and then Iris hid in the other cabinet.

Iris tried to breathe softly so the Old Man couldn't hear her, but surely he must be able to hear her heart hammering against her ribcage.

The saloon door opened with a slow creak.

Hah hah. Hee, heh.

Iris could hear the slow footsteps of the creature, and she held her breath. She gripped her camera tightly, her breath shaky and shallow.

The smell of rot hung in the air as the Old Man stopped in front of the cabinet Iris was hiding in.

Hah heh. Heee heh heh.

Suddenly, Iris heard a small squeak, and one small word from the little girl.


She could hear the sounds of the cabinet being wrenched open, dark laughter, and the screams of the little girl.

Iris burst out of the cabinet and saw a horrible sight.

The Old Man held the little girl in his arms, almost mother-like if it weren't for his mouth hungrily gnawing on her soft fingers, the bones crunching as he was slowly making his way up to her elbow.

Iris took a picture with her camera, the shutter noise echoing across the empty saloon, alerting the Old Man.

He took a viciously voracious bite out of the girl's abdomen, bloodied flesh stretching between the shivering body and his yellowed, rotting teeth. He turned as Iris reached through the photograph and hurled a chair at the Old Man.

It bounced off of its head as it dropped the little girl and moved towards Iris.

Iris flung more chairs at it to no effect. It grew closer and closer, and Iris screamed, panicking.

A gunshot rang out and the Old Man fell to its side, clutching its head with a strangled whine. A large hole could be seen in the side of its cranium, leaking out that familiar black sludge. Iris turned to see Elkoan holding his rifle, furiously reloading.

"Run like hell!" He shouted, as he aimed the gun once more and shot.

Iris took the half-eaten child and ran out of the saloon. She was cold in Iris's arms, and the smell of rot emanated from her wounds. The little girl had long stopped shivering, but Iris couldn't find it in herself to let her go.

She couldn't abandon her.

Like she did to Tommy.

She could hear more gunshots, and Elkoan screaming "Come get it, you little shit!"

Iris turned as Elkoan ran out of the saloon. She took another picture of the Old Man emerging from the saloon and threw a few buckets at him to try and slow him down.

Iris spotted a piece of spare dynamite laying on the ground. Iris grimaced. She had a plan, but she couldn't force herself to be happy despite finding a way out.

"Elkoan! Distract him!"

He nodded and fired his gun while Iris took a photo of the dynamite. The Old Man stumbled towards the middle of the road, his balding head riddled with bullet holes.

Hee heh heh.

Why the hell is it laughing!? It's tittering pissing her off as she pushed her hand through the photo and firmly grasped the dynamite. She nearly dropped the girl, and her stomach turned.

The Old Man burst forward faster than Elkoan expected and grabbed him by the throat. It tore off his hand and ate it while Iris stood there, frozen.

Elkoan screamed, in pain or terror. Most likely both.

"Do it! Do it now-"

The monster put one hand on Elkoan's throat and ripped it out. Blood gushed out of the unsightly gap, flowing down his body and onto the ground. Elkoan stopped moving as it pooled just beneath his feet which were just inches off the ground.

It chewed noisily on the soft flesh of his esophagus as it's gaze slowly turned to Iris.

She looked around frantically and saw a fallen deputy. She picked up his gun, aimed at the dynamite, and shot at the fuse.

This was her last chance.

A fire ignited, running down the fuse in seemingly slow motion, as Iris tightened her grip on the dynamite and threw it at the Old Man.

A blinding light filled Iris' vision, her hearing was reduced to ringing and then all was replaced by darkness.

She faintly registered a soft thud as she dropped the little girl.

Iris stared blankly at the floor of the train station. She was unimaginably tired. Unfortunately, she had no choice but to keep going.

The train stopped with an ear-piercing screech, driving Iris to hold her head in pain. She stumbled onto the train and began to search for her seat. The surviving deputies had said that the monster is nowhere to be found. They all thought it was dead.

But Iris knew it was still there, hovering over the horizon.

Waiting for her to come back.


It was a warm summer evening, but she shivered.

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