a short story by AD Bane
It lived there in the house – my house. By the years we became accustomed to it, learning to live with it, to avoid its grasp; but it never left, never once. It was our horror.
When I was still so young, I can remember where it hid behind the bathroom door – that thing of fear; and I did fear it with all my heart, as any young child has right to. I feared it because of what they said, and of course I believed. “Don’t let it catch you,” they told me. “It wants to grab you as you pass by.” But I didn’t: I ran by that door as ever I might, the wind in my ears, my slippers rasping on the floor. I never stayed, and it never got me. But even now I wonder what their intent was. Even my parents had warned me, My brother, too. In somber tones they said it – and yet there was a certain jest in their eyes, as if they taunted me, knowing if they said it I’d believe them and live with the fear in my heart, the fear that one day I wouldn’t be fast enough, and it would catch me.
That was every little boy’s fear.
I knew what it was called. I suppose every demon needs a name of some sort, though I can’t now remember how or from where the name came to me. It was a Black Velvet, and though I can’t attest to know for any certainty, I would guess it was called this for the terrible, hairy arms with which it would snatch the unsuspecting. At any rate, as a child the name struck terror into my heart, and even now I can’t say it without a certain tremor in my body: even now I find myself making many gross misspellings on account of the control that has been taken from my fingers with this memory.
I often wondered why my parents didn’t have the thing removed. Who would suffer such a vile creature to dwell behind their bathroom door, to hide there and take the unsuspecting as they passed by? Certainly I hope I would never allow any other to suffer such a torment. How many did it snatch away as they naively ambled past? And that a parent would let such a terrible monster haunt the footsteps of their children is unfathomable.
Our house was a comfortable place. I can still recall it quite clearly. I enjoyed most of the time I spent there with my family gathered around our old television watching movies as old as I am, in the kitchen at our abnormally large table (which was really several small tables put together), or even in my room playing with my brothers and our myriad of communally shared toys. There were so many things to do as a child in that house, but what troubles me now is that hallway that seems to my memory to be miles long and dark and empty and cold. I would have to pass it every morning when I woke up and every night when I went to bed. It was a thing to haunt even the noblest of souls, because there in its midst was the bathroom door on the left as I went to bed, standing wide ajar; and behind it that thing hiding in the space it made against the water heater, its eyes watching me through the crack as I hurried past – watching into my mind, my dreams, never a moment to rest.
I don’t know what it looked like. I can’t even say for certain what color or shape its eyes were. Perhaps this is only because I have stricken such a memory from my mind, perhaps only that such things a child cannot comprehend. Certainly, it’s better that it isn’t recalled, I think. Memories serve me well enough even now to know that such horrors a child shouldn’t endure, not even as I have. I do, however, recall quite clearly speaking to my brother about it, even though the subject was one that wasn’t brought up often. We were in that eternally long hallway, I at the end where, if the need should arise, I might hide myself away in the shelves of the cupboard amidst the blankets there and so be safe. But my brother was in the very middle of it, only just across from the bathroom door where there had once been another doorway into my parent’s room, but it had been blocked up. “Come away from there!” I implored him. But he wouldn’t – wouldn’t move – and even for the fear in my heart I still seem to recall that he was either stupid or naive to the danger in which he was. “The Black Velvet will get you!” I cried, and still he wouldn’t move. And I remember only a feeling of helplessness, knowing that he wouldn’t listen to me, and there was nothing I could do about it – such seems the reoccurrence within my lifetime.
“Do you know what it is?” he asked.
“Yes!” I said in adamance, and still I implored him.
“A snatcher,” he said, “to take away little kids who aren’t careful. You must tread careful, and be quick!”
Little kids, I thought? When had it ever shown discretion in who its dreadful arms would snatch away? It was a demon and a monster and it didn’t care.
Much of what followed has now escaped my memory. I don’t know what time passed in between, how many fearful journeys I made in that hallway; but I do know that some time later my youngest brother vanished and I never could find him, though I looked in all the very best hiding spots we had found together about the house—our bedroom closet, the cupboards in the hall, underneath the bed in my parents’ room, behind the couches in the living room, in the pantry on the back porch, under the kitchen table, behind the television. No matter how I searched, I never could find him, and even when I confronted my parents about it, I knew it was futile. “Where is he?” I asked. And it was with that same serious yet jestful tone that they replied, “We don’t know,” smiling all the while.
My other brother I also put the question to, and in his own derisive, mysterious voice he said, “The Snatcher has taken him!”
That was when my worst fears became reality. I thought he was joking. I was almost certain of it. It was the sort of thing he would do: play tricks on me, making me think that the thing behind the bathroom door had stolen away my brother when in reality he was just outside at the swing in the backyard, or on the slide we had made in the pincherry tree with a great piece of bark dragged up from where the log piles had once been at the bottom of the hill on the driveway, or at the top of the hill above the front yard playing with our trucks, cutting roads into the patch of ground we called “The Playing Place”. But I can tell you with certainty that he was not in any of those places, or any of the others that even now come to my mind.
Again I cannot be certain in any way what time may have passed, or under what circumstances my next memory falls. Certainly I should not be surprised to find that much happened in between and now is blocked from my memory for the sheer gruesome brutality of the truth. The next thing I recall only is this: I found my older brother in the bathroom sitting on the edge of the tub, that same dry, sardonic, jestful smile upon his face. Past the door I ran like the wind to get inside before it could catch me, and I remember wondering what game he was playing, and why he was only sitting there watching me – waiting, but for what? I don’t even think he said anything; he didn’t have to, for, if my memory serves me still quite well, I can still see the thin red and brown stripes on the underside of the patchwork blanket with which it grabbed me. I never saw its face, never saw its eyes, not even its arms or hands, only that blanket and my brother’s wry smile as it drew me into the space behind the bathroom door next to the water heater.
This work is written by AD Bane and published by adbane.com. It is solely the property of ADBane.com and may not be reproduced in part or in whole for any reason except at the exclusive permission of the author. © 2011 ADBane.com