“Moooom!” The child called out to her mother with her squeaky four-year-old voice, “There’s a monster under my bed!”. Her room was dimly lit by green glowing stars on her ceiling and a pink teddy bear adorned night light to her right. The flower-decorated door opened with a slow creek as the mother softly walked in.

            “A monster? Again?” The mother asked with a cheeky grin, “Do you want me to check it?” The girl nodded with her blanket scrunched up to her face, only showing her terrified eyes and the top of her head. The mother knelt down beside the bed and pulled the frilly pink bed skirt up before looking under it… She gasped in shock, “What’s this!?” She exclaimed as she went deeper under the bed.

            “No!” The daughter shouted as she threw the blanket off herself and grabbed at the back of her mother’s pajama shirt, “It’ll eat you! Don’t go!” The mother popped up from underneath the bed, nearly knocking her child over, but she steadied her with a soft grip on her shoulder while hiding something behind her back.

            Her voice shaky, she replied, “I… found something that I thought I would never find again…” Large tears threatened to fall down the girl’s cheek as she sniffled, trying her hardest to hold back her tears. The mother could barely contain her smile as she showed what was behind her back, “It’s Mr. Fluffers!” An old, tattered tan lion with a red mane that was half the size of the child herself was in her mother’s hand. It was missing an eye, covered with an eye patch and wore a shirt that said ‘Aargh!’ on the front of it. The girl’s tears retreated as a big toothy smile took over, she snatched the lion from her mother and held it for dear life as she plopped back onto the bed in relief.

            The mother laughed softly as she stroked her daughter’s wispy brown hair, then gently placed a kiss on her forehead, “Mr. Fluffers would never let any monster hurt you, I promise, Annabelle.” The mother covered Annabelle with the disheveled blanket and lovingly tucked her in, “Goodnight, I love you more than anything in the world.”

            Annabelle poked her head out from behind Mr. Fluffers and said, “I love you too mom,” before she stood up and went back to her door then shut it slowly with a soft click.

            Two months later. In the grassy field, huddled up in a ball and rocking herself was little Annabelle. Her eyes wide at the sight of the overturned car, her mother’s arms still dangling in her seat. Annabelle’s shirt and pants were scratched up, along with her knees and arms from crawling out of the car, “I’m sorry mom.” She quietly repeated as she quaked in shock, “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, please come out.” She whispered with a trembling voice. No tears fell, only sweat and regret.

            A police officer patted the girl’s shoulder, asking if she could stand, but she couldn’t hear anything. Only her screaming voices telling her it was her fault. The ambulance team searched the car, pulling out the child’s seat that was behind the mother. Annabelle heard whispers as she was being taken away by the police officer, “She won’t make it.” “What about the kid?” “She was lucky.” The car rolled into a field with a fence around it, some of the fencing was wrapped around the car itself. She didn’t hear or see much more as she was placed in the police car and taken away.

            Annabelle was quietly weeping to herself and could feel the officer’s aura of pity and a desperate need to do something for the poor girl. There was nothing he could do though. When she sat down at the police station, she saw her shadow have horns and teeth. Her eyes went wide as she screamed and cried for it to go away. No one else could see what she saw however, “What’s wrong with her?” One would ask. “She went through a car wreck, must be the trauma.” The other would answer. The girl did not know how to tell them that there was a monster following her. Nor did she even want to speak. She just wanted to go home.

She went to a home. But not her home.

As the soil birthed flowers to absorb the sun’s rays,

The bravest flower will endure the harsh cold,

It will live through the rainy days.

As the sun rests upon the horizon, the light will soon leave,

The bravest flower, now left alone in the night,

Left with the nightmares, only to grieve.

Nothing will save you now

My little flower

A poem favored by the shadows

            Years passed since that day, yet nothing was better. The place reeked of smoke and alcohol, her room was no exception, despite her only smoking a few times. No alcohol. The simplistic grass-green wall paper was torn and needed to be replaced, along with about ninety percent of everything else in this house, including the father. “Do as I say, not as I do.” He would always say to her when he would catch her smoking with the window cracked open. She slipped on a pair of worn out jeans and an old red flannel shirt before tying her boots on.

            Where do you think you’re going, with a life like yours? A large shadow was cast onto the wall by the bedside lamp that was lit. Nowhere. He breathed into her ear. Great big horns that resembled antlers adorned the large, lanky body that was now Annabelle’s shadow. You can’t even go to a public school, what a pity. You used to love it there. His cold, clammy hands claimed her shoulders as she faced the door. Why don’t you stay with me? I won’t leave like everyone else, my child. His haunting voice wouldn’t leave, no matter how hard she tried to ignore his messages.

            “You’re a terrible roommate.” She scowled. Oh, like you aren’t? What is that excuse you always tell your father again? “I needed food” “I helped a friend”, you do nothing but rot in this room with those substances you buy from the shifty men in alleyways. “You are such a pain.” She retorted as she went back to the mattress that laid on the floor, “When will you ever leave?”

            The beast let out an audible hum, as if he were pondering his answer as he took on a form in front of her. A smoky dark figure appeared before her, hunched over on his knees as he tapped his chin. He never spoke to other people, just to poor Annabelle’s mind. I don’t rightly know. he tilted his head. I’m the only friend you have. He shrugged. Do you really want me to leave? I’m hurt. He said sarcastically as he dramatically held his chest with those long, sharp hands. I’ve kept you company ever since you killed your mother all those years ago. “Don’t remind me!” She threw a punch at him, knowing it would only go straight through him, only disturbing the smoky image for a brief moment. A dark, menacing chuckle filled her head as she could practically see his demonic smile under that smoke.

            Memories flashed through her mind of sitting behind her mother in her car seat. “Look mommy! Look! A cute kitty!” Annabelle held up her tablet to show two kittens play fighting. The mother only looked for a brief moment before losing control of the wheel while trying to avoid a deer. The violent momentum slammed into her as the windows shattered with fence poles poking through. Annabelle’s eyes were shut tight as she felt her hair hang from her head and her arms tucked to her body.

            Her eyes fluttered open only to see that the grass was poking through the window while the car tilted toward the hood. She let her hands dangle down, almost touching the roof of the car while her feet were awkwardly pushing against her mother’s seat. “Mom…” She hesitantly called out, seeing her mother’s hands resting on the roof without twitching. Red droplets hit the roof, instantly being absorbed by the furry mesh.

            “I don’t want to remember dammit!” She shouted at her shadow. The smoky apparition’s hands cupped her chin and forced her to look into his dark, empty eye sockets. Do you wish to forget instead? You know what I ask for, darling. He leaned in closer, their noses would be touching if the monster was actually there, forcing the breath out of her as he breathed in. Give me your body and you will never suffer again. She shook her head, releasing herself from his grasp and abruptly stood up to walk past him, back to the door.

            Slamming it shut, she knew it wouldn’t wake her alcohol induced father as she stomped down the hallway. She stomped into the small bathroom that had a few tiles missing and a single light bulb. She ran the cold water in the sink and proceeded to wash her face, convincing herself to simply leave the house. The horned monster took over her shadow, curiously watching her do her morning routine, wondering what the point of it was. She had nothing but him.

            It is fine to cry my child. He appeared behind her, his horns going through the eight-foot ceiling before he draped his lanky, dark arms around her shoulders, resting his sharp face next to hers. Misery haunts everyone’s waking hour. He reassured as he caressed her face, sending chills down her spine. Including yours. His wide maw opened, showing several shark-like teeth and a long, pointed, tongue fell out. He licked her cheek, it felt as if someone grabbed a piece of ice and slid it across her face on a hot summer morning.

            She ignored him, forcing the monster to go back into her shadow and follow her out of the bathroom. Annabelle quickly walked down the short hallway with her monstrous shadow following her every move, glancing around the room, her father was not in his usual recliner that was well overdue for the dumpster. With its alcohol and random food stains, it reeked of rotting food and fresh vodka. The TV was left on, showing last Sunday’s football game, which wasn’t entirely odd. The odd part was that her father was nowhere to be found at the moment, not even raiding the refrigerator. Was he still in bed? Maybe he took the car out?

            A peek out the window proved her theory, the heap of junk her father somehow kept running was gone. She had the house to herself for who knew how long. How fun. The shadow appeared next to her. Whatever shall you do? The monster curiously asked as he hunched over and held her shoulders. She waved her hand at his shadowy appearance, preferring him to stay in her shadow after all these years of having to endure his presence. She went into her father’s disheveled room and searched through his night stand. She then plucked a single cigarette from his stash and went back to the living room. With a few flicks of her lighter that she dug out of her pocket, she puffed a few smokes out of it and opened a window. Oh, how mischievous of you… She could practically hear him roll his eyes at her. Terribly boring, as always. He sighed as he knelt next to her and rested an elbow on her shoulder. When will you do something fun for a change? Does smoking really fuel your teenage angst?  “What do you think?” She remarked. The apparition shook his head, causing his smoky appearance and the cigarette smoke to intertwine. If you’re trying to kill yourself, you and I both know you can do better than that. He chuckled to himself as he dipped his hand into her temple.

            Dangling in her car seat, Annabelle had watched her mother strap her into this car seat many times. She can get herself out, and she did with a few clicks here and there. She managed to slip out of the car seat and onto her bum, now sitting on the roof of the car. The pool of blood below her mother was now growing wider, she took a peek at her mother and nearly froze in place. Her mother’s eyes were wide and her mouth drooling with blood. Her chest was impaled by one of the fence poles that managed to pin itself into the seat.

            Annabelle vomited while she practically felt her heart and stomach fall to the floor, “M… mom…?” Shaking and quivering all over, she outstretched her hand towards her mother and cried out for her to wake up. She cried and cried, begging her to tell her that everything is ok. That she loves her. To give her one more hug.

            “Do you just live to see me suffer?!” She shouted at him. I do, actually. You keep me well fed, child. He menacingly chuckled as she glared at him, “How many days will you make me relive that memory?” The monster hummed in response, pondering an answer, then shrugged. Who knows?  

            They both perked their heads up at the sound of the door creaking open, the apparition faded away and hid in Annabelle’s shadow once more as a man with a poorly shaven beard and beer gut walked in. He instantly scowled at Annabelle, “Are ya seriously smokn’ again?” He shouted with his stupid southern red neck accent, “What did I tell ya ‘bout that shit Anna?!” He heavily strode over to her in a fit of rage and held an iron grip on her wrist that held the cigarette, “It’ll kill ya one day ya stupid brat!”

            She hissed in pain as his grip only grew stronger, “Let go of me!” She demanded as she tried prying his hand off of her, “I’ll toss it out!” He glared at her for a long moment before releasing her, leaving red marks on her wrists as she dug the cigarette into the ash tray. The father then grabbed his daughter by the collar of her shirt and pressed her against the wall. His breath was a clear sign that he drank before breakfast.

            “The next time I catch ya doin’ that shit I’ll-”

            “You’ll what?!” She interrupted as she tried getting his hands off her.

            “I’ll toss ya out like the bitch you are!” He screamed at her face, his breath reminding her of a toxic dump. He let go of her and she shoved him back in response.

            “Fuck you!” She shouted back, earning her a backhanded slap that forced her to the ground, hitting her head on the coffee table and spilling the ash tray with her. Trembling in anger, she pushed back her heated tears and looked past her father, seeing a shadow that enveloped half the house with horns larger than her own shadow and a smile that would scare Lucifer himself. Her anger was threatening to boil over.

            I hunger child. Your anger is intoxicating. Her own monster finally speaking to her again, it only fueled her rage as her eyes went wide with her eyebrows furrowed. Let me go child. She felt a fire in her that she hadn’t felt for quite a while, not since she was shoved into the lockers by the Barbie brats. I SHALL FEED!

            The monster now was no apparition, his body was blackened with horns that scraped the ceiling and with cracks that flowed through him like tree bark that glowed red. His head resembled that of a deer skull; no eyes, just sockets with a glowing red pupil and sharp teeth made for meat. His body was lanky, his fingers long and thin like needles. The shadow that once held the father appeared before Annabelle’s. They were of similar appearance, yet the other one gave off an aura of authority.

            But Annabelle’s monster was starving. He craved the being before him.

            With a deafening screech, the two monsters fought with everything they had; their claws, teeth, horns, even using the shadows around them to push one another around. Yet they didn’t seem to disturb anything around them. Nothing moved as they collided and slammed each other onto the floor and furniture around them. Annabelle was feeling her monster’s rage, almost feeding off of it herself like a leech. Before she knew it, she was moving to attack her father, using any weapon necessary.

            It was almost like both the monsters and their hosts were in sync. The monsters clawed and bit at each other’s throats while Annabelle used her surroundings to her advantage as her father used his strength and durability alone to take on whatever his daughter had in store for him. Annabelle was being backed up into her father’s room, she scrambled to find the one thing that would end this and was determined to do it herself.

            Annabelle’s monster was quickly being overwhelmed, despite his hunger fueling him, he was pinned to the ground with no escape by the stronger being. The bigger being hissed and let out an earth-shattering laugh as he opened his maw, revealing the endless, swirling pit that was his stomach. The smaller monster let out a desperate, frustrated screech at him as the bigger monster bit down on his muzzle.

            Then it disappeared into shadows with a loud crack coming from the father’s room. And then another crack, and then another, and another… Annabelle’s monster, the one that was left standing, almost cautiously crouched down and walked to the room. He tilted his head at the sight, Annabelle, with a wooden baseball bat in her hand, swung at the ground and hit her father’s head for what seemed to be the fifth time. His head collapsed, brain matter showing and skull fragments embedded in the baseball bat, along with a puddle of blood forming around him and dripping off the bat.

            Tears ran off her face as she sniffled and cried out while she kept hitting him. Even the monster who has been feeding off of guilt and pain for centuries felt pity for the poor girl. He went to her side as she kept beating the father’s head in and sat down, watching her repeating her actions.

            Are you happy? She didn’t respond right away, only locking her eyes on her father who laid on his back with a disfigured face and an eye hanging out of his socket. He is dead, child. Annabelle panted, gasping for air as her arms were quaking from overuse, she raised the bat again and slammed as hard as she could on her father’s face. Even the forensic team would have trouble identifying the man with his dental record. She finally let the baseball bat clatter to the floor before collapsing beside her monster.

            Heated, salty tears stung her red cheeks and bruised lips as she held her knees up to her chest and hugged them as tightly as she could. The monster curiously looked at her, not feeling hungry any more, but finally having room for other desires. He cautiously placed a hand on her shoulder and lowered his head to try and get a better look at her face. It is over. He simply stated. “I… I know.” She acknowledged, “Let go of me…” She weakly tried shoving his hand away, but didn’t even have the strength to move away from him.

            The monster looked more carefully at the child and could not see her aura until he looked around the room. It was dark, consuming every shadow that could exist with a miserable aroma that filled his mind like alcohol. His glowing red eyes pierced through her soul and saw every dark desire she held… and smiled. He held her closer to his chest and whispered into her ear. You wanted to do that to him for quite some time. Annabelle tried wriggling free from her monster, “No! I never wanted to kill anyone! You told me to!” A loud, deep, boastful laugh erupted from the being before he gripped her chin and forced her to look into his menacing eyes. You can not lie to a demon, child. Not once did I whisper in your ear to do so. You did this on your own accord. He forcefully directed her view to the father. Does that look like something I did, Annabelle?

            She desperately tried looking away from her dead father, then looked down at herself. Blood decorated her worn out jeans, along with the sleeves of her flannel. The demon finally released her and she didn’t go anywhere. She merely quaked in place, terrified of what she did and what she was capable of. If the demon could force his deer-like skull to smile, he would at the sight of her. He saw what she was truly capable of. My sweet Annabelle, I know the answer, but I must hear it from you: Do you regret this? His hands were now on her shoulders as he rested his head next to hers. A short moment passed as she looked upon him, her father with the caved in face. She meekly shook her head, “No,” She said weakly, “He was an asshole.” She looked at the demon from the corner of her eye, “You’re an asshole too, just a monster haunting my dreams, like you always do.”

            The demon let out a low chuckle. What have I done for you, Annabelle? I’ve kept you company, stayed by your side for a decade now, and what has he done? He pointed to her father with his needle-like finger. Never once have I hit you, called you names… Am I the true monster here? She furrowed her brows and gritted her teeth, wanting to say that ‘yes, of course he is’, yet… He was right. His cold touch was beginning to feel like the only comfort she would ever have. The only way she could tell if she was alive or not. She began to feel her body grow cold, the world around her was filled with more shadows than she remembered. Her eyes glazed over as the demon lovingly caressed her head with a sinister grin. He licked her jawline and gently tilted her head so he could whisper into her ear. Is it time, my dear? Her skin was losing more color the longer he held her, but she nodded, “Please,” She croaked out, “Make it stop.” Another dark chuckle followed the demon as the shadows consumed every ray of light, nothing could shine through it.

            Hours passed and the front door was kicked open. Annabelle’s neighbors decided to let themselves in since they hadn’t heard from the father in a while. They called out her father’s name, looking around for any sign of life, but none were to be found. Nothing in Annabelle’s room, the bathroom, the living room, not even the kitchen. They checked the father’s room last and shrieked at the sight. Only her father laid dead on the cheap floor. One of them dug their phone out and immediately called the cops while the other was looking for the culprit. The windows were locked, along with the back door, the front door was as well… until the neighbors broke it. What they didn’t see was a menacing shadow that took residence in a corner in the father’s room. A shadow with two spikes as horns, and another shadow with larger horns that was holding the little shadow’s shoulders looked upon them with a menacing grin. We must find others, my child. The bigger demon said to the smaller one. Others who believe that they have committed atrocious deeds, such as you once did. The smaller one smiled, eager to start her search as she disappeared into the shadows.

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