Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Devil's Children

You shut the door. But it doesn't matter, they're still out there. You can still hear them, you can still hear her, screaming at you to let them come in. She tells you you're going to die... it's already too late, you've seen them, you've talked with them, you're going to die. Isn't that what happens to those who have seen the Children? The Children with the black eyes. The Devil's Children.

It's been an hour now. Why are they still there? Why hasn't the landlady shooed them? Surely someone must have complained, they're so damn loud. You can't take it anymore, this has to stop. You get up from your chair and walk swiftly back to the door, you open it. There's nothing out there, only darkness. Empty. But they're still there, you know they are, you can still hear them in your head, they want you to let them in, LET THEM IN! COME IN GODDAMMIT, THE DOOR'S OPEN, COME IN, COME IN, COME IN DAMN YOU AND GET IT OVER WITH!

Your neighbor opens their door to see what all that screaming is. He looks down the hall at you with an expression that tells you he thinks you're mad. You're the mad one? How could he not hear the Children and their screaming? But it's gone now. The yelling. You don't hear them anymore and so you start to think maybe you are going mad. Black-eyed children? Something that can't really exist, surely. But you remember, you remember that there were stories; you remember the old Cajun down the street who used to tell stories to the children. It was so long ago, but you still remember the stories. You hadn't thought about those old stories for more than a decade, but you remember now.

In the old days, all the children would go down to see the old Cajun gentleman and listen to his stories. He told about the Black-Eyed Children, didn't he? About strange children with dark eyes who approached people and asked for favors. People felt fear when encountering these children. The old man loved to frighten the neighborhood children, you see. He told them about the Axe Man of New Orleans and about the Comte Saint Germaine. About the Salem Witch Trials, or what he claimed really happened in 1692. There were tales of strange creatures which were known to the Japanese, turtle demons with bowls of water in their skulls and vampire like things with floating severed heads. He once spoke of a little girl made of wood who could control people by wrapping strings around them like puppets. He told of the Mad Arab Abdul Alhazred and how he met his grisly end. And the Angel of Fallen Light, who had been cursed by God to wander the Earth for eternity and who, it was said, hated all creatures with power like himself and would attempt to purge these beings from existence.

There was one that particularly stood out though. You aren't really sure why you think of this one more clearly than all the rest. Maybe because of how eerie it was now, thinking back to how the old man died. The story of the Tall Man. It was said that the Tall Man had lived forever and that he would live still until the Earth was made desolate, or even until the last star in the night sky had blinked out. He wore a dark suit and a tie and his face never appeared the same twice, if he even had a face at all. He went after children who were bad and took them away where they were never seen again. He walked among the trees and could be found in any forest or woods to those who were foolish enough to seek him out. These were found later, their bodies ripped open and hung from the trees. And to all those who knew too much of the Tall Man, madness surely followed.

One of the children had asked the old Cajun how he could know so much then, if madness came to those who possessed knowledge. The old man replied that he could not be affected because he was already quite mad, and he began to laugh like a madman and you and all the children became frightened and ran away. You think that was the last time the children were allowed to go and listen to the Cajun's stories. Some months later some kids in the neighborhood went missing. Some people blamed it on the old Cajun, as he too had disappeared. After some days of looking, they found the old Cajun. In the woods, his body mangled and impaled on the trees, his organs removed and intestines strung up in the branches. With him were some scraps of clothing from the missing children. They were never found.

You think over the stories again. There's something missing, something not quite right. You notice the lights begin to flicker and the radio is just static. Wait a minute, you didn't turn the radio on. You know you didn't. The door's still open so you close it, then you see something move out of the corner of your eye. Something you can't make out, it's hidden in the shadows, and those damn lights are only making things worse. You cross the room and turn off the radio. Now there's that whispering in your ears. The story, about the Tall Man, why does it sound so... what? You can't quite place it, but you know there's something familiar, something you should remember and it's not just because of some old fairy tale you heard when you were little. Damn, that whispering, maybe you are going mad, where is it coming from? You see something moving in the shadows again and try to follow it, to find out what it is. Whispering in your head. It's so loud, why is it so loud? It's only a whisper, just a whisper, but it's so very loud.

It's too much. You walk into the kitchen, you have to sit down, try to think. Didn't you just close that door? Yes, yes, you know you closed the door only a minute ago, why is it open again? The girl is there again. The little girl with the empty, black eyes. She's standing outside and... she's talking to someone. Someone inside the house. You lean over, trying to get a look at who it is but all you can make out is a shadow, an odd shadow. Shaped like a man, but not the right size for a man. The whispering in your head, it's the shadow, you can hear it now. The whispering tells her to come inside. She turns and looks right at you and starts walking towards you. You want to get up, to leave before she reaches you but you can't because the whispering is still so loud and you can't think clearly. And it's telling you that you need to stay. The little girl stops in front of you; she stares at you with those solid black eyes. She speaks, her voice cold and without emotion. She says

"The Tall Man would like to play a game with you, sir. He would be ever so displeased if you were to refuse."

You can't speak, still staring into those eyes, like looking into the void. She turns around to face the door and you turn with her. The shadow is there again, slithering into the room; but now you can see what was attached to the shadow...

Then you wonder why it all seems so familiar.

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