In a small and all but forgotten town, a long way from here, there was a little girl who lived with an aunt she barely knew. Her own parents had passed away a long time before and her older brother had gone into foster care because the aunt couldn’t care for them both.
In an old house, a house with leaking pipes and creaking boards the girl grew into a young woman; no matter how old though, she was still afraid as soon as the light died down outside.
She imagined monsters of all shapes and sizes, creatures that defied description prowling around in the night’s blackness, within the house and without.
One night, her aunt failed to return home from the diner where she’d worked as a waitress and the girl worried and worried as the hours ticked by.
She sat backward on the sofa in the living room, peeking through the curtains where she pulled them apart just enough to peer outside into the gloom, scared and alone as she prayed for her aunt to return home.
A pair of headlights finally startled her from the slumber she hadn’t known she was slipping into, a car door opened and slammed shut, and feet drummed against the gravel drive and onto the porch before the door came swinging open and crashing shut behind a strange young man she faintly recognized.
His brow glistening with sweat her brother smiled at her briefly before his face returned to grim seriousness and words began spilling from his lips. He told her that he had wanted to surprise her with a visit. He’d just turned 18 the week before and had called their aunt to arrange for this.
The little girl leapt up from where she’d perched stiffly against the back of the sofa and ran to her brother, squeezing her arms around him so tightly that she might have cracked a rib and interrupting his speech.
She asked where their aunt was and he didn’t have time or presence of mind to mask the truth. Something terrible had happened to her while he’d waited in the parking lot for her to finish up her shift.
Some strange men, dressed as hunters, had come in late, near the end of her shift, and she had refused to kick them out no matter how late it was.
Those men did monsterous, horrible things, and the little girl’s brother had tried to stop them.
The men came after him and he jumped into his car and sped away for the run down old house where he knew his sister was alone.
A pair of headlights tracked him the whole way, edging closer and falling back as he raced along the back roads trying to get to the house.
As he breathlessly neared the end of the story, the sound of two doors shutting outside reverberated through the sinking hearts of the brother and sister.
There were, that night, two monsters prowling around in the darkness, and they had already hurt the girl’s family.
But they weren’t the only ones.
From the rear of the house the girl heard the scratching and shuffling that had filled her with terrified visions so many nights, accompanied by the sound of labored breathing and the almost silent thrumming of subdued growls.
And from the gloom and shadows a giant, misshapen figure began to emerge, covered in hair, mouth bristling with teeth.
Her nightmares had never painted an image so horrible as what she was actually seeing.
And behind that first abomination appeared another, followed by two more.
The monsters she had feared were in fact quite real.
Her brother turned toward those lurking creatures and smiled with recognition…and for all that it could, the monster in front smiled back.
The brother looked down to his sister, grabbed her tear-soaked cheeks in his palms , gently turned her face to his, and whispered, “Stay here. Stay inside with the monsters. They’ll keep you safe. I’ll be right back.”
Before she could utter a word of argument he was walking through the front door as the creatures from the darkness moved closer to her and circled protectively around her.
There were sounds of violence outside followed by drunken laughter as someone fell to the ground.
Loud footsteps approached the front door from the porch outside, and she knew it wasn’t her brother coming back to her.
The door burst open with a crash and through it strode the two hunters her brother had spoken of.
Alcohol on their breath and blood on their hands and sleeves, they strode confidently into the foyer before they saw the little girl and the beasts that surrounded her.
There was no chance for them to scream.
The hulking shapes lunged forward as one and the two bad men disappeared into a tangled flurry of fur and claws and gnashing teeth.
It was no more than a few minutes and the two men were gone, no trace of them remaining in the dimly lit foyer.
The monsters slipped through the door and returned with the beaten and bruised, unconscious body of the brother.
They gently laid him down on the sofa and turned to the little girl, lowering their heads to her and snuffling like she’d seen from so many dogs in the past.
She reached out nervously at first and gently patted her tiny palm on the matted fur of one after the other and they slowly slipped back into the darkness at the rear of the house.
Her brother woke up a short while later, groggy and hurting, and walked her to her bedroom where he tucked her into bed.
She fell asleep just before the police arrived to inform them that their aunt was in the hospital but that it looked like she would come through it all ok. The police had no information as to who had done the horrible things to the kind older woman, but assured the brother that they were investigating it.
The little girl fell asleep that night with no more fear, and she slept through the visit from the police.
The monsters she had feared were no longer monsters.
And there was nothing prowling in the dark that would hurt her but the monsters that pretended to be men.