This previously unreleased short story has been featured in installments over the last few weeks. Enjoy the final chapter of…Room with a View.
Room with a View – Part 5 (Conclusion)
He sat up suddenly. Craig looked around his bedroom. He shielded his eyes from the morning glare painting the walls. His memory flashing images of last night. The visit. Zingo’s arm. Blood. Craig panicked and his heart raced. He scrambled to the window.
“Craig? Are you awake? You’re going to be late for school.” His mother pleaded outside the bedroom door.
Zingo’s arm wasn’t there. The grass was void of blood or any signs of a weighty limb resting on the dew-covered lawn. Craig’s eyes darted across the yard. He scanned the tree line.
“Yes, mom. I’m up!” Craig shouted over his shoulder. He heard his mother mumble about using a tone like that with her as she left the hallway.
A pit formed in the bottom of his stomach. He felt like he was being watched but he couldn’t locate the eyes. Red eyes. They were out there. He felt it. Craig swallowed his morning breath and ran a shaky hand through his hair.
He grabbed his cell phone and dialed his friend. It rang and went to voice mail. He tried again. Same result. Craig felt nauseated at the prospect of his best friend being mauled by the monster. His emotions ran the gamut of fear to frustration to anger. Craig had to do something but he didn’t know where to begin.
Without thinking, Craig slid over the window sill and dropped to the lawn below. He ran for the woods. His eyes picked apart the landscape as he ran. He had to know he wasn’t losing his mind. Maybe it was all a bad dream? Zingo could be busy and that’s why he didn’t answer the phone. He knew there should have been a bloody spot on the grass where he had seen the phantom limb.
Craig jumped over a deadfall. His feet slid down the gulley, riding old leaves and detritus like a skateboard. He used saplings to slow his progress. Reaching the bottom, he caught his breath and looked around. The dappled sunlight cast eerie shadows between the limbs. Then it hit him.
The smell almost dropped Craig to his knees. It smelled like a men’s restroom at a truck stop mixed with rotting flesh. Craig choked back what threatened to shoot up his throat. He lifted the collar of his tee shirt to cover his nose. It barely made a difference.
The hairs on the back of his neck stood up. His survival instincts were at war with his desire to figure out his puzzle. He took a few steps forward, along the shallow bank of the brook. His foot kicked something hard beneath the leaves. A sharp pain shot through his big toe and he glanced down, expecting to see a large rock. Instead, he found something else.
His friend’s baseball bat lay at his feet. He disregarded the foul smell around him and let go of his tee shirt. Craig crouched down and picked up the bat. It was stained with blood. The realization that his hopes of bad dreams faded slammed him in the chest. It was real. Last night had happened. Zingo was dead.
Craig sensed the danger around him. Knowing that his friend had died for him was too much for Craig to bear. He scampered up the gulley with the baseball bat. The feeling of being chased flooded his veins. He could feel monstrous hands snatching at the back of his legs as he charged up the forested hill. Craig reached the tree line and sprinted to his bedroom window. His lungs burned and his muscles cried out for a break. The fear inside his belly was so strong that he vaulted up to the window sill and pulled himself inside. He never would have been able to pull off such a feat if he weren’t so terrified and running at such a speed.
Craig clutched the bat in his hands and peered out the window. His chest heaved as it gasped for air. He watched for movement in the woods. Nothing seemed to move. A slow rumble of a growl rolled up the gulley and traveled to his window.
Craig shuddered and squeezed his eyes shut.
He sat and waited.
The moon hid behind the thickened clouds like it was afraid of the monster too. The yard was pitch black. The woods were nothing but blackness, indiscernible.
Craig crouched beneath the window sill. Shallow breaths left him feeling tired. His forearms broke out in gooseflesh, contrasting the sweat on his upper lip. He concentrated his eyes and ears on the woods. Sporadic twig snaps and shadow play wreaked havoc with his nerves.
He glanced at the clock on his night stand. The witching hour had arrived. Craig clutched the bat tighter, feeling his hands go numb. If the last few nights were any indication of a pattern, then the creature would be here soon.
Craig exhaled and tried to fill up his lungs. The forest was quiet. Deathly quiet. Craig’s ears had the sensation of ringing to fill the void where nature usually played.
His eyes grew wide. The sense of dread immediately pervaded the bedroom. Craig knew it was outside. Every fiber of his flesh prickled with anticipation. He trembled and had to clamp his jaw tight to keep his teeth from chattering. The blackness seemed to move. He wasn’t sure if it was real or more visual tricks.
Craig sat in front of the open window. He left it open so he wouldn’t have to hear that knocking sound again. The scratchy, awkward cadence which chilled his bones. He wanted to strike as soon as the monster approached the window. Surprise would be his only asset in this battle.
The stink floated to his nostrils. Craig choked back the bile and steeled himself against the coming horror. The filthy odor signaled his brain to remain vigilant. The beast was near.
The sound was faint at first. Like a whisper. Or a wheeze. Craig winced as he tried to determine if a soft voice was speaking or if he heard a raspy breathing sound. His eyes skittered back and forth to make out any movement.
There it was.
A dark shadow, darker than the blackness that surrounded it, drew near the window. Craig readied the bat in his fists. He raised it over his shoulder, preparing to strike the monster as it reached the sill. Craig sensed the body before he could see it. He swung the bat forward, connecting with a mass that reverberated up the wooden shaft. The loud thunk echoed against the siding. Craig swung again. And again. Then he stopped.
He listened as the body remained before the gaping window.
The low, raspy croak was Zingo. He leaned forward to gaze at the shape outside. His friend’s mangled body hovered in front of his face. Craig was confused. He thought Zingo was dead but here he was. Right outside his room. But how could he be this high, in front of my window? It dawned on Craig before he could answer his own question.
The beast held Zingo aloft. Its massive, outstretched arms dangled the dying body of his friend. Craig looked closer and saw the missing limb, the battered skull. The smell of coppery blood mixed with the rank odor of the monster.
It flung Zingo’s body across the yard as if it were a stuffed animal. His best friend’s muscular, wrestling physique appeared to have no more weight than a prize won at the carnival. Before Craig could react, the monster clutched his face with one meaty palm and ripped him from the bedroom window.
The fear was so powerful that Craig once again found himself unable to scream for help. He felt the massive creature tuck his body under its arm like an old football. It carried him to the woods. The smell drowned out Craig’s senses. He teetered on the brink of passing out, but forced himself to remain awake. He knew he was going to die. And he didn’t want to miss it.
The sound of a grunting growl rumbled along the tree line. It echoed down the gulley and was swallowed up by the maples and oaks which filled the forest. Twigs snapped and leaves scuffled, the noises following the path of the beast.
A few minutes later, the crickets began chirping again.