“The Red Eyed Man”
“What was the hardest part about making the show?” was a question I used to get a lot, usually by fans or interviewers curious about us and our filming process. I lied; it’s a hard habit to break once you start. Usually I said something about interviewing people and finding topics, or maybe even chasing down monsters with heavy equipment, but that wasn’t it. Were those things hard? Sure. But they paled in comparison to the frustration I felt when confronted with how much I didn’t know. Even today, with years of hindsight, research, knowledge, and experience, I feel like all I’ve done is scratch the surface of a very, very large iceberg. I know so much about the other side, what lies past the Veneer, and all the players and machinations hidden in the dark, and all it does is remind me how much I don’t comprehend and how much I probably never will.
Red Eyes lies firmly in that camp. He remains just as alien as the first time I saw him and that, more than anything else, makes me fear him. Sure, he was strong. Dangerous, even. But Thorn, Jones, heck, even most of the Little Bookers, I could understand them. I knew why they did what they did, and there’s comfort in that. However, I never saw anything recognizable in those bruning scarlet shapes. There was no trace of human logic or emotion in them.
Nothing except rage and fury, that is.
Originally, we had no intentions of going to Memphis. The itinerary had put us in Adams, Tennessee instead in order to get a look at “Bell Witch Cave.” Just for good measure, we did do a quick exploration of the space (after the whole Bunny Man incident, it was getting hard to tell what was fact and what was fiction), but we both agreed that there was nothing spookier than cramped, dark places lurking in there. Rather than pack up and head out to our next destination, though, we decided now was a good time to take a look at that itinerary and replot our course.
Part of that decision had to do with the fact that it was getting pretty close to Christmas and travel was becoming hard. A portion of that was because of the highways clogged with cars and the snow, but mostly it was just hard emotionally. I left on rocky terms with my parents, and it still hurt to only be able to talk with them over email and phone calls. I could see that it was hitting Zoey a whole lot harder. So taking a break and collecting ourselves seemed like a pretty good idea.
That was, until we got the email.
We were longing around the living area, me on my phone and Zoey on the laptop, when she suddenly called out “Liam, come look at this!”
I got up and moved behind her, looking at the text she had brought up. “Someone emailed us?” I asked. That was unheard of. Even though we had scattered official contact info for the show all over where we posted the videos, the only communication we had gotten were likes and the occasional odd comment. This was the first time we had been directly reached out to like this. The excitement immediately drew me out of my holiday doldrums.
“Yeah.” She squinted her eyes and began to read out loud:
“Dear Zoey and Liam,
“To be honest with you, I’m not quite sure if I should be writing this to you. You seem like filmmakers using clever tricks to make your fake stories seem believable. But I’m at the end of my rope here and I have nowhere else to turn, so all I can do is write to you and hope your videos are as factual as you claim.
“I work at St. Magdalene's Home for Children in Memphis, Tennessee. A couple weeks ago, one of the children began to complain about a ‘red-eyed man’ staring at her outside her window throughout the night. A few nights later, and the whole floor of children started to say the same thing. I shrugged it off as a vivid imagination spreading panic to her bunkmates, but a week ago, I saw the same thing: a silhouette of a man with red eyes standing off in the swamp filled with trees near our building. He didn’t move or make any threatening gestures, just stood there and stared, unblinking, until the sun began to rise, at which point he walked away and disappeared.
“I’ve seen him a few times since then, even recorded him on video camera. He doesn’t do anything except stare, then leave before morning. Even so, the thought of him watching fills me with dread. I’ve tried contacting the police, even giving them the footage, but for some reason, they won’t believe me. I’m scared. I’m worried that soon he’ll stop watching and do something, and I can’t bear the thought of what he could do to any of the children here.
“Please, please email me back. I need help. You’re my only hope.
“Ms. Shirley Jackson
“Administrator of St. Magdalene’s Home for Children
Zoey stopped reading and sat back a bit, then looked up at me. “How far away is Memphis from here?”
I tapped in some information into my phone. “About three and a half hours. Closer to six with this traffic, probably.”
“Right. Who’s driving?”
I smiled. “Not even a question of if, huh?”
Her eyes sparkled for the first time since the start of our holiday break. “Hell no.”
As soon as we pulled into the parking lot, Ms. Jackson came out to greet us.
“Thank you so, so much for coming” she said as we exited the R.V. She was an older woman, with streaks of silver creeping into her hair and wrinkles set into the pale skin around her eyes and mouth. A black shawl was wrapped tightly around her, keeping her warm against the afternoon air dotted with the occasional snowflake. “Really, truly, I can’t tell you how much this means to me.”
Zoey smiled. “It’s no problem. We were in the neighborhood anyway.” We weren’t; it had taken us the full six hours plus more. But we were too excited to care.
She guided us into St. Magdalene's, a huge lodge-like building made out of dark, old wood. Inside was warm and inviting, with large rooms filled with bookcases, comfortable furniture, rugs and more strewn about, punctuated by the occasional sight and sound of running, giggling children. It had the feel of a well-lived in home and then some.
“Welcome to St. Magdalene's,” Jackson began. “This is our entrance hall. Over there are the wings with…”
Zoey cleared her throat. “Not to be ungracious guests, but do you mind if we cut to the heart of the matter?”
Ms. Jackson’s expression dissolved into relief. “Of course. Here, follow me to my office.”
We did, moving past a large room filled with long tables and a variety of children and adults seated at them, engaging in an organized craft of some kind. Once we made our way to the back, she opened a glass door into a dark office with a large hardwood desk and two leather chairs seated across from a comfortable office chair.
Zoey nodded to me and I began setting up the camera equipment. “You don’t mind if we film this for the show, do you?”
Ms. Jackson looked up. “Hmm? No, of course not.” After I had gotten everything running, we all sat down.
“Right,” Zoey began. “Could you repeat your story for us, starting at the beginning?”
Ms. Jackson sighed. “It started three weeks ago. Millie Doe, one of our charges, began to complain about a red eyed man outside of her room, staring at her through the night. I simply brushed it off; Millie is well known to have an active imagination, so I simply thought that she had a nightmare of some kind. A few nights later, several of the other children on her floor began to complain about the same thing: a man with red eyes staring at them from outside their window. Believing that Millie was repeating her stories and influencing the others, I asked Susan Darrens to stay with them through the night to convince them there was no red-eyed man.
“Then Susan came back and said that the red eyed man was real.”
She stopped, opened up a desk drawer, and pulled out a bottle of water. She offered one to us as well and, after we declined, took a large drink from the bottle before continuing.
“I didn’t really know what to make of it, but it did convince me to stay up that night and wait outside of that window. Several of the male staff did so as well. We weren’t sure what it was, but if it was a threat, we wanted it gone as soon as possible.
“A few hours after the sun had gone down, we saw it. A silhouette of a large man, bulky, maybe six, six and a half feet tall. We couldn’t make out any of its features in the gloom, save for the large red eyes. They literally glowed, giving off light.
“For a long time, we were all paralyzed with fear. Then Thomas, one of the staff men with me, began to shout at it. Telling it to go away, and whatever prank it was trying to play, it wasn’t welcome. It didn’t move. Finally, he and two of the others took their rifles and headed out into the swamp to confront it. As they got closer, the eyes disappeared, and that seemed to give them enough courage to pick up their pace and run after it.
“Two of them stayed behind with me and we waited for several tense hours, listening to the sounds of sloshing bootsteps and cries of ‘he’s over here!’. Eventually, all three came back soaked and scratched. They said that they had chased it further into the swamp, but every time they got close to the glowing eyes, it seemed to disappear, only to reappear somewhere else, simply staring at them. Once the sun began to rise, the eyes disappeared for good and the men came back.
“Of course we called the police. Two officers came and I told them everything that happened. They stayed and recorded our statement, then told us they were going out to talk to their station over the radio. When they came back, both were pale and terrified looking. They told me not to call them with prank calls and gave me this card for ‘when you have an actual emergency’. Then they left so fast you would have thought they were being chased.”
Jackson handed over a plain paper business card. On it was the number for the police station but drawn in pen in the corner with a slightly shaky hand was a capital ‘A’ with some sloppy looking wings.
I pointed the drawing out to Zoey. She nodded silently.
“We’ve been on high alert since. I’ve tried getting the police back here. I even recorded the thing on video several times as proof. But every time I get the same response. We’ve taken to guarding the place on shifts, making sure that all he does is stare.” She gave a slightly bitter laugh. “Not like we can sleep much, anyway.”
“Has he ever done anything besides watch?” Zoey asked.
Jackson shook her head. “No. Nothing else. But… I’m so afraid.” She put her head into her hands and began to cry.
“Hey,” Zoey stood up and softly took one of her hands, “it’s okay. We’re going to get to the bottom of this, and once we do, we’re going to get rid of him, for good.”
Jackson looked up, sniffled, then nodded. “Yes, of course. I… I’m sorry.”
“No need to apologize.” Zoey turned around, silently asking me what I thought the next step was.
“I think we need to see those videos you took,” I said. “And is there any way we can talk to this Millie Doe?”
Millie was seated out in the common area with the other children, engaging in the craft I could now tell was hand-made Christmas cards. She had long blonde hair and a long-sleeved flannel shirt, and was bent over a green piece of paper with a red crayon in hand, drawing with the seriousness and intensity only a nine year-old kid like herself could muster.
Zoey smiled and sat down next to her. “Hey,” she said, “are you Millie?”
The kid just shrugged and kept on drawing.
Zoey looked down to the paper. “Is that Santa?”
Millie didn’t respond.
A group of three girls ran in behind her, one noticing her sitting there and very purposefully bumping into her backside. Something fell out of her pocket and Millie gasped and reached for it, only for Zoey to catch it a split second before it hit the floor.
Zoey held it out for her: a small crystal, clear as glass and tinted slightly green. Millie gave a quiet “thank you” before taking it and putting it back in her pocket.
“Do you like pickles?” Zoey asked out of nowhere.
Millie looked at her like she was crazy. I’m sure I did, too.
“When I was your age, there was a group of kids who bullied me, and my dad told me the best way to get rid of them was to glare at them and think of something you really, really didn’t like. And I hated pickles. So every time they came around, I would look at them and think of pickles, and viola!” she parted her hands with a flourish. “They left me alone.”
Millie watched her, trying to keep a straight face, but a snort escaped her and she smiled. “I like you” she said.
“Of course you do. I’m awesome.” Zoey stuck out her hand. “Name’s Zoey.”
“Millie.” She shook it awkwardly, like she was afraid it was going to bite her.
“Nice to meet you Millie. Do you mind if we ask you a few questions?”
“I guess not.” She picked her crayon up again and continued drawing, but this time she looked up every so often to pay attention to us.
“We heard that you see something at night.”
“The Red Eyed Man,” she responded matter-of-factly.
Zoey arched an eyebrow. “The Red Eyed Man?”
“He stands outside my window and looks at me when he thinks I’m sleeping,” she explained. “He looks like a shadow with big, glowing red eyes, like stop lights.”
“What does he do?”
Millie shrugged. “Just stares.”
Zoey and I glanced at each other. “Just stares?” I asked. “Nothing else.”
Millie nodded, eyes glued to her paper.
I shrugged and turned to leave, but Zoey motioned for me to wait for a second. “Millie, do you mind telling me what that crystal is?”
She looked up at Zoey. “It’s a wishing rock. My mom gave it to me.”
“A wishing rock?” Zoey asked.
She nodded. “Yeah. It keeps your wishes safe until they come true. But you can’t let it break, or else they’ll never happen.”
“How do you know that?” I questioned.
“Timbo told me.”
“Yeah. He lives out in the swamp. He’s a big blue elephant who walks on two legs, and he eats cotton candy and maple syrup.”
Zoey smirked. “Imaginary friend?”
Millie looked up with pride. “The best one ever.”
With nothing else to ask, we said our goodbyes and left, the bizarre image of a sweet-addicted swamp elephant still in my head.
“So what do you think?”
I was watching the video Jackson had recorded. In it, a large, human shadow loomed in the darkness between two trees. Large red eyes, bright enough to actually shed light on the nearby branches, was leering at the camera. It didn’t move, or blink, or do anything but watch in the black night air.
I gestured to the screen with my palm. “I mean it’s something, obviously. But as for what, I couldn’t tell you.”
Zoey moved behind me so that she could see the screen as well. “Do you think it’s a pagan god like the Bunny Man was, trying to drum up some belief?”
“I don’t think so. Leshy made it sound like he had to use the form of something already made up. And he was a bit more… aggressive, in his techniques. No, this is something else.”
“Like, ‘thing-in-the-pit’ something else?”
“More like ‘creepy-alone-thing’ something else.” I ran my fingers through my hair. “Then again, that’s a complete guess on my part.”
The red eyes on the screen turned from watching the camera and began to stare in a different direction, towards the building itself.
“It looks like he’s looking for something,” Zoey noted.
“Yeah, or someone,” I agreed.
“Maybe he’s looking for Timbo the elephant.”
I snorted. “Good luck with that one, buddy.”
The eyes scanned up and down a bit more before the figure turned around and vanished, leaving the woods empty as the sun began to light up the landscape.
“Do you think there’s a chance that all he’ll do is stare?” Zoey proposed in a soft voice.
I shook my head. “Only until he sees what he’s looking for.”
A few moments of silence passed between us.
“We need to learn more about it,” I stated.
Zoey looked at me. “Stakeout?”
I nodded. “Stakeout.”
Stakeouts are boring; I just want to say that. The movies make sitting for hours in a small space waiting for something to happen so you can watch it glamorous somehow, but the truth is that its mind numbing and dull.
However, we had the advantage of having cameras. Five of them, in fact, which was perfect; that gave us enough to put one at each corner of the building, covering the majority of the woods surrounding it, and one to keep just in case. Once the cameras were set up, we could simply watch the stream of the footage on the laptop in the relative comfort of the R.V., waiting for the red glow.
It didn’t disappoint. At close to eleven, the bright light of two shining orbs appeared on the third camera.
“Zoey!” I stood up and exclaimed. She bolted over to the laptop and looked to where I was pointing.
She looked at it in surprise for a few moments, before saying “c’mon”, grabbing our last camera and dashing outside to where that screen was showing, with me following close behind.
Sure enough, there it was, just… standing there, making no attempt to hide itself. Again, the silhouette was human-shaped: a head, two arms, two legs, but the outline of it seemed off. It was a bit too angular, with a few too many perfectly straight lines and a few too few curves. But the most noticeable feature was, of course, the eyes: fiery crimson, with a bright red that bordered on orange, like flames escaping the confines of a furnace, bright enough to cast a solid glow on the otherwise black frames of the looming trees and dark earth.
I picked up the camera sitting nearby, the same one that had alerted us to its presence earlier, and pointed it at the creature. For a few tense moments, nobody moved, us simply recording it in stunned awe and it simply staring back.
After a minute or so of this, it turned away in order to glance up at the building’s many windows.
“What do you want?” Zoey shouted at it.
It ignored her, continuing to scan the area.
“Hey! Answer me!”
It turned back to Zoey and cocked its head. The motion reminded me of the way my old dog Sparky would move and watch you when you were talking to it with words it didn’t understand.
“Yeah! Tell us what you’re doing here!”
It turned back to gaze at the windows.
“Fine, have it your way!” Zoey took off running towards it. The creature immediately saw the motion and began to walk away, further into the trees and the swamp.
“Zoey wait!” I shouted, sprinting after her. The area immediately became confusing and hard to see. I felt my foot slip into water and I looked down in frustration and disgust, only to raise my head and realize that none of the surrounding trunks and puddles looked familiar.
“Over there!” I heard Zoey shout. I glimpsed Zoey’s form to my right, then followed her finger into a deeper section of swamp. There, sixty to seventy feet away, were the eyes again.
I ran after them, no longer caring about the sensation of cold, murky water sliding into my shoes. My vision of the eyes shook as I moved up over fallen branches and down into divots.
I tripped over a submerged log, stumbling a few feet forward to avoid falling face first into who knows what. When my head rose again, the red orbs were gone. Spinning around, I found them almost a hundred feet away, dead behind me.
“Zoey!” I yelled and pointed. She immediately saw it and changed course. We must have cleared that distance in less than a minute, but by the time we crashed into the spot it was, it was gone again.
We jerked our heads around, looking for the eyes, but this time, there was only darkness.
I looked down at my clothes, now thoroughly soaked and caked in mud. “C’mon, let’s go. We’re not going to catch him this way.”
She looked down to her own hoodie, gripped the bottom, and twisted, wringing swamp water out of it. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.” She looked back around at the forest and started to trudge back towards the yellow lights of the building. I followed, and by the time we had made it back, the sun had just begun to rise.
I turned to look at the trees one more time. There, shrouded in the shade of two large pines, were the eyes again. They watched me for close to two minutes, then turned and disappeared.
One nap and several hot showers later (of which Ms. Jackson was kind enough to let us use the building’s facilities for, so we didn’t need to worry about draining the R.V. tank dry for once), we were in one of the common rooms of St. Magdalen's, watching the footage recorded from the other cameras last night. On the screen, the red eyes appeared in the camera, staying still for a few minutes, before turning and moving off screen. A minute later, the tiny, panting versions of us appeared, looking around wildly for them.
“Well,” I said, “it looks like it doesn’t just teleport. That makes it a physical entity… I think.” I put my head into my hands. “I feel so dumb right now.”
Zoey clapped a hand onto my back. “Hey, don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s not like you got to take Monsterology 101 or anything.”
The sound of shouting interrupted my thoughts. Looking up, I saw Millie backing away from the three girls who had ran past her earlier. “It’s your fault it’s here, you freak!” the one in front shouted at her.
Millie seemed on the verge of crying. “Guys, I don’t know…”
The other girl interrupted her with a big shove, knocking Millie onto the ground. Her glass-like crystal fell out of her pocket and onto the floor, emitting a high-pitched TING sound, like a tuning fork being struck,
“Hey!” Zoey snapped. The other girls looked at her with panic and they bolted, leaving Millie alone on the ground holding her wishing rock.
“No…” she sobbed. “No no no no no no no no.”
Zoey walked over and knelt next to the girl, carefully taking the rock out and holding it up to the light. A long, hairline crack had formed in its side.
“It’s okay, see? It’s just a crack.” She gingerly put it in Millie’s hand and curled the girl’s fingers back around the crystal. “The wishes are still safe.”
Millie stopped crying and looked at Zoey. “You promise?”
“Promise.” Zoey turned back to where the other girls had ran to. “What were they talking about?”
Millie sniffed. “They think that it’s my fault that the Red Eyed Man is here. They want me to get rid of him. But I don’t know how!”
“Calm down. I believe you. That’s why we’re here, though. We hunt monsters.”
Her eyes went wide. “Really?”
Zoey smiled. “Yep. You go play. We’ll figure out how to get rid of him.”
She nodded and ran off.
“Bold promise to make, considering we still don’t know what it is,” I observed.
Zoey shrugged. “So? Same goes for everything else, and we’ve still always won.”
I bit the inside of my cheek and stayed quiet; I still hadn’t told Zoey about Sam’s late night visit.
“C’mon Mr. Monster Hunter!” She hopped up on the bench beside me. “What’s our next step?”
I sighed. “I think we’ve got to do another stake out.”
Checking our video against the other recordings had confirmed that Red Eyes (the name we had begun referring to the creature as) always appeared in the same spot in the woods every night at eleven o’clock. Knowing this, we came to the second stakeout better prepared, set up with the light-weight camcorders and in more appropriate attire to chase the thing through the muck. One more weapon joined our arsenal, though: a thermos of coffee. The snow has started coming down harder that night and that small container of hot liquid was pulling double duty, keeping us alert and shielding us from the bitter wind.
“He better not decide to be late today,” Zoey warned as she poured out another cup.
I nursed my own mug and looked out into the trees. “Somehow, I don’t think we need to worry about that.”
A flicker of light caught my attention as two flaming lights came into view.
“Zoey,” I whispered, “there.”
She dropped her cup and spun the camera around to face it. I did the same.
This time, something was different. The red lights were getting bigger, and it honestly took me a few seconds to realize what was going on simply because it had never happened before: it was walking towards us.
With one long stride it came out of the swamp, and for the first time, I could actually see it. It was tall. Six and a half feet was the minimum guess as to its height. And in clearer light, I could finally understand the silhouette I had been seeing. Human shaped, yes, but definitely not human. Instead, it seemed to be made out of obsidian, carved out of black, volcanic rock. Not smoothly, like a sculpture, but roughly, with the same hand and technique one would expect arrowheads and other stone tools to be made with. The resulting figure was all jagged edges with no organic curves, and I could actually hear the grinding of stone on stone with every movement it made. The only break in the mass were the two holes where the eyes should be, revealing an inside filled with intense, bright red light.
“Hey!” Zoey walked forward, bringing her right in front of it. “What do…”
The thing cut her off by taking one massive arm and sweeping it into Zoey, lifting her into the air and flinging her aside like a rag doll.
I ran past the creature to the ground where Zoey was sprawled. It didn’t seem to care.
“Zoey!” I fell beside her. “Zoey, are you okay?!”
“Air…” she wheezed. “Can’t…”
A sudden burst of heat hit me and I turned to the source. The thing had firmly planted its feet into the ground and was staring at the roof of St. Magdalen’s. Only staring’s not the right word, because that would imply he was just looking. No, massive, almost cartoonishly large red beams of light were spilling out of its eyes, traveling in a straight line right into the roof, blowing pieces of it apart where the literal laser beam collided into the structure. The pieces that weren’t flung into the air alighted into flame and in no time at all, the entire top of the wooden building was blazing.
I turned back to Zoey. “Are you alright?”
I pressed my cell phone into her hands. “Call 911. Get the fire department out here.” I got up and ran over to the building just in time to run into Ms. Jackson escorting a line of children. “Is this everyone?”
“Yes” she replied. “Liam, what happened?”
I turned back to gawk at Red Eyes. He studied me, before making a strange series of hand motions and head back into the woods. Stunned and in shock, all I could do was watch him leave.
The firefighters didn’t leave until dawn.
“You need to be more careful in the future,” one of them told me as the rest packed their gear back into the truck. “You’re very lucky that gas leak didn’t cause more damage.”
“Gas leak?” I asked in disbelief.
“I highly suggest you get this building checked out, make sure it’s all up to code.” He handed me a small plastic card, proclaiming the name and number of a property inspector. In the corner, hand drawn, was another ‘A’ with wings.
I glared at it as the man turned and left. “Of course. You, you…. Cowards!” I grabbed a rock and threw it at the engine, hearing it bounce off with a dull ‘thunk’.
Neither he nor any of his men made any attempt to defend themselves against that comment as he got into the truck and drove away.
The rest of the day was a blur of chaos. Ms. Jackson had ordered the staff to help her gather up and move the children away, and we whole-heartedly agreed. But even leaving behind everything that wasn’t essential, there was too much to move quickly. They were forced to carry away supplies and children alike in vehicle load after vehicle load, and the whole process was estimated to take two days, at least.
Which meant at least one more night being visited by Red Eyes.
Zoey and I agreed to stay behind. Our hope was to try to figure out a way to stall him, at least for one night, but it wasn’t looking great. I knew two things about Red Eyes at this point: one, he seemed to be unstoppable, and two, he seemed to be incomprehensible.
I was in the R.V., watching our footage of the thing and repeating the strange hand motions he had done to me over and over again in an attempt to find some logic to them, when Zoey walked in. “Or else what?” she asked.
“Hmm?” I looked up.
She gestured to my hands. “Your signing ‘or else’. Or else what?”
I blinked. “Signing, as in… American Sign Language?” I had known Zoey knew sign language, teaching it to herself to communicate with a deaf cousin of hers, but never in a million years did I expect that to be the thing Red Eyes was doing.
She raised an eyebrow. “Yeah.”
“Those are the motions Red Eyes made at me, before disappearing.”
She looked at me in surprise. “What?”
“Here, what does this say?” I stood up and began to go through the motions as best as I could remember them.
Zoey squinted. “Give it… to? me. Give it to me or else.”
An uneasy silence filled the room.
I sank back into my chair. “So it wants something. Great.”
“Yes, it is” Zoey insisted. “If it wants something, we can use that.”
“And how the hell are we supposed to know what that is?” I shot back. “We have no idea what this thing is, or why it’s doing this, or even why it changed behavior. And we certainly don’t know how to stop it.” I slouched even lower in my seat. “Might as well follow the example of those firefighters. It’ll all be the same in the end.”
Zoey got a few inches away from my face and stared directly into my eyes. “Do not give me that. Not right now. We’ve got a whole building full of kids back there, and we are the only thing standing between him and them. So wherever you put that Red-Like-Roses Liam, bring him out here, because I need him now.”
“Alright, alright.” I exhaled and ran my fingers through my hair. “He knows how to communicate. So he’s intelligent. And we can talk to him. Maybe… maybe we can reason with him. Convince him that working with us to get… whatever the hell he wants, is far better than expending energy getting around us.”
Zoey smiled. “There he is. C’mon, let’s do this.”
We spent the rest of the day planning and preparing, trying to come up with a backup plan in case our attempts of negotiation failed. In the end, all we could really think of was to stash fire extinguishers and water buckets everywhere and pray that we didn’t need a backup plan.
And so, come eleven, we were standing outside, waiting for Red Eyes show. And come eleven, down to the second, he appeared.
The large black form moved out of the treeline and then stopped. He glanced to me, then to Zoey, before making several hand motions.
“He wants to know if we have it,” Zoey translated.
“Ask him what that is,” I replied.
Zoey made some hand motions of her own.
He stood for a moment before beginning to march towards us.
“Tell him we’ll find it for him if we know what it is,” I pleaded in panic.
Zoey did so, but he only gave a few motions in return.
“He says ‘move or be moved,’” she replied in fear.
Not knowing what else to do, I stepped in front of him. He reeled back in surprise, or perhaps disgust, before the light from his eyes began to grow brighter, and brighter, and…
His head suddenly snapped towards a window at the top floor, and I could just barely hear the source of what got his attention over the sound of the howling wind:
A clear, high-pitched TING, like a tuning fork being struck.
Red Eyes immediately shifted his path, making his way towards the door closest to the sound.
Zoey turned to me in confusion. “Liam, what…”
“Millie!” I cried. Zoey’s eyes went wide with recognition and we both bolted, diving into the doorframe before he could reach it.
“Go find Millie!” I yelled. “Get that wishing rock from her!” Zoey nodded and ran up the stairs.
I moved back to face Red Eyes, the crimson from his sockets already growing brighter in preparation for another beam.
I grabbed a fire extinguisher next to me, pulled out the pin and aimed it at the creature, spraying white dust everywhere. It reeled back, the glowing lights disappearing in the chemical fog.
I ran, moving further into the building and onto the stairs. I heard heavy, shaking footsteps behind me in the hallway, turning just in time to see him stomping after me. I grabbed a metal pail full of water and swung it back. It tracked the flying object and fired off a blast as it flew towards its face, causing it to explode in a shower of steam and shrapnel and forcing him backwards a second time.
The familiar feeling of adrenaline began to flood me and I ran up the stairs two at a time, past the second floor, onto the third, just in time to see Zoey talking to Millie, a staff member and the rest of the kids crowded into a corner.
“But... the wishes!” Millie insisted.
“It’s the only way, Millie.” Zoey replied. “We need to use it against the monster.”
Millie’s expression became sad, but she reached into her pocket and removed the clear, slightly green crystal, now with two long cracks set into it, and held it out to Zoey.
Zoey took it and threw it to me. I caught it just as Red Eyes came into view, scanning the room before noticing me and the crystal.
“This is what you want, right?” I held it out. “Here. Take it. Take it and leave everyone here alone.”
“NO!” Millie cried. She darted forward, but Zoey grabbed onto her and held her back.
Red Eyes regarded the outstretched rock for a second before violently snatching it from me. I felt and heard a POP from my hand and immediately sunk to my knees in pain. It watched me fall with an expression that almost looked like amusement before turning and stomping its way down the stairs.
The room fell into a hush, punctuated only by the whispers of the other children, the quiet sobs of Millie, and my own groans of pain. But nothing more came.
It was over.
A few more hectic hours later, I was watching Millie in the far corner of the hospital waiting room as I held a cold pack over my newly-splinted finger. She held a small teddy bear by the hands, making him move and dance, but the movements were slow and a sadness that wasn’t there before emanated from her eyes.
The chair next to me issued some squeaks and groans. I turned to see Zoey sitting down next to me. “What’d you get?” she asked, gesturing to my hand.
I held the metal splint out. “Dislocated finger. You?”
She lifted her shirt just a bit to reveal a stomach wrapped in bandages. “Cracked ribs. Nothing I won’t live through.”
“It’s a good thing we’re still on our parents’ insurance,” I noted. “We should figure out what we’re going to replace that with when it runs out.”
“Try to get one with frequent flyer miles.”
I scoffed, then turned back to watch Millie.
“She said anything?” Zoey asked.
I shook my head. “Don’t think she will, either.” I stood up and together, we made our way out of the building, into the dark parking lot filling with snow, and began the walk back towards our R.V.
“What the hell was that, Liam?” Zoey asked.
“I don’t know,” I replied. “And what’s worse is that, whatever it is, it’s new. I mean, we were just getting used to these… other spaces, with the painting and the Hotel California and wherever that empty place is. Then these stupid winged ‘A’s show up, and just when I think we’ve got a handle on that, there’s this buisness with ‘the god of light’ and now… this.” I sighed. “I feel like a blind man locked in a mansion, forced to stumble around and try to find a way out. It’s enough to make me…”
“Scared?” Zoey offered.
She looked at me with genuine shock.
“It’s not right,” I said. “These… things, they exist in the dark. Nobody knows that they’re there. And because of that, they get to do whatever they damn well please, grabbing people and things for who knows why. And meanwhile, it’s the little people that get screwed over, people like Greg and Sims and Ms. Jackson. People that have no want to be there, no business being in that world, and they get dragged in anyway because of crap luck.”
I withdrew the card from the firefighters. “And I have no idea who these guys are, but they’re the worst of all. Because these guys are the people letting them do this. They’re actively keeping these things secret. They’re practically feeding people to the shadows, and no one can stop it because no one knows it needs to be stopped.”
We continued to walk through the snowing, cold parking lot in silence for a while.
“Liam…” Zoey began, “what do we do when they spot us? These… A guys.”
“Well, we’re not stopping the show,” I replied.
“Of course we’re not stopping the show.” She sounded offended. “I agree with everything you’re saying. We need to expose these people.” Her tone softened. “But they’re going to find us. Soon. And we need to be prepared when they do.”
We grew quiet again.
“How long do you think we have?” Zoey asked me.
I looked up into the sky. “A month. Maybe two, if we’re lucky. But in three weeks’ time… we’ll need a plan.”
Of course, Archangel came for us much sooner than that. Much, much sooner.