When the Demons Know Your Name

**Formerly Late Night Creature Feature

We all have monsters, creatures buried deep within our souls. The deeply religious call them demons, but I’ve always preferred to think of them as something beyond deities. You see, you don’t need to believe in God to encounter a monster. You just need to live. Eventually, you’ll find them. Walk down a dark alley anywhere and see how long you last.

There are many kinds of monsters. Some are inside us. Some are in the shadows. The world is plagued by them. My dad once told me there are many monsters to fight, but the human ones were the worst.

I wish that were true. See, I’ve seen the other kind. They are not as common. They hide in darker shadows and don’t attack you on a dark street or in an empty parking lot. They’ll wait until you’re home alone, then slip out from the darkness. Some will take your life, others your soul. These reapers are the ones we truly need to fear, but many don’t believe in them.

I do. I’ve seen them…

* * * *

“Mommy! Daddy!” Jason sat up in bed, throwing anything he could grab—his pillow, a few toy cars, and a rock—across the room. The rock hit the far wall with a solid crash, bouncing off it just a few inches from the gap into the darkness.

His closet door was open just an inch, but the thing hiding beyond it lay in wait for him. He heard its breathing, the harsh rasps punctuated by a long growl.

When a door opened, Jason jumped, thinking this was it. The creature would rush across the room and tear him apart like he had seen happen to those other kids. It was there for him, and it was going to get him.

Light ripped through the room, chasing away the darkness. His dad stood in the doorway only a few feet from the closet, but he didn’t even look toward it. He was oblivious to the danger as he shuffled across the room. His eyes were only open to slits, his hair a mess, and he wore a t-shirt and gym shorts.

“Heyya buddy. Bad dream?” his dad asked as he sat on the edge of the bed. Jason already had his legs pulled up to his chest, leaving plenty of room for his dad to sit without the risk of squashing him.

“No, it’s real! It’s in the closet. It was coming out and it wanted to get me!” Jason said in a rush, pointing to the closet.

“Yeah?” His dad stood, the bedsprings creaking.

As he walked to the door, Jason fought the desire to scream out, telling him, No! Don’t do it! Get away from the door and get them out of here. None of them were safe. The creature wanted to kill them all and it wouldn’t stop until it had.

His dad pulled open the door, making an exaggerated action of looking through the contents and studying the clothes hanging there. “Nothing scary in here.”

“It comes out when the lights are off and no one else is here.”

This wasn’t the first time the creature had come. He had been hearing it for the last week, making different noises in the closet. He had called out many times, and each time, his mother came in to check on him. This was the first time his dad had been home since the monster started terrorizing them. It was also the first time the creature actually appeared from the closet, and Jason knew it was their last night. It would get them all.

“How does it get in?” His dad quietly closed the door to the closet so as not to wake anyone else. His mom must still be asleep in the other room, Jason’s screams not loud enough to reach her tonight.

“I don’t know. He just comes to get me.” Jason had meant to say “us”.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“I think you need to stop watching horror films before bed.”

Jason blew out a breath. “I know they’re not real, Dad.”

“Yeah? Then we’re good, right? You know it’s all fake, so you shouldn’t be having these nightmares.”

“Dad?”

“Yeah, bud?”

“It’s not a nightmare. I know the difference. I’ve seen it.”

“Yeah?”

“I saw it earlier. It was the monster from your film. It has those glowing red eyes and long nails. It’s like an evil porcupineman-shaped thing. I saw its long nose come out of the closet, those glowing eyes looking at me.”

Jason wanted to say he had seen more, but didn’t think his dad would believe it had crept back into the closet when he had started throwing things. He knew he would just point out that a big, scary monster, especially like the ones in his films, wouldn’t have hidden away from things thrown at it by an eight-year-old.

“You said it’s from my film? How did you see it? The movie, I mean.”

“It was on cable tonight,” Jason mumbled, playing with the blanket and avoiding his father’s gaze. He knew he wasn’t supposed to watch the creature features, but they were fun. Not only that, but the host was funny and had this thing called the “kill counter”, which showed how many people had been killed during the movie. His dad’s movies never rang too high on the kill counter, but Jason liked them. How cool was it that his dad directed them? “Though they cut out all the good stuff.”

His dad smirked. “The good stuff, eh?”

“Yeah.”

“You remember John Winters? He comes to the parties your mom throws every year.”

“Yeah. The really tall guy.”

“Yeah. Well, he’s the one wearing that costume. He plays the porcupineman, as you call it.”

“I know it’s just a man in a costume, Dad. But the one in my closet is real. I saw him. He was coming out to get me. He wants to eat me. He wants to get all of us.”

“Jason, come on. You just told me it wasn’t real.”

“The one on TV isn’t.”

“Okay, how about this. Tomorrow morning, I take you to the set with me and you can see the costume. It’s not real.”

His dad reached out and ruffled his hair, giving him that bright smile. Most times, it reassured Jason to see it. His dad always exuded confidence with that smile, but now it just let Jason know he was being ignored. He had to get his dad to listen.

“Yes, it is!”

“Just wait until morning, okay?”

Jason looked at the closet. The door was closed. It was quiet now that his dad had come into the room. Maybe it would be okay. The monster had left before, letting them live another night.

Maybe his dad had some superpower that scared away monsters. Maybe his movies weren’t as fake as he liked to say. Maybe it was because his dad truly was some monster slayer, and now that he was in the room, the beast had gotten scared and ran away.

“Okay.”

His dad stood. He bent down to give Jason a kiss on the forehead and a hug before pulling back and looking into his eyes. “Remember, Jason. I’ll show you it’s only a movie. Just remember, it’s only a movie.”

Jason watched him walk to the door and stop for one last look back, his hand lingering over the light switch. “Get some sleep. I’m sure Tammy would love to see you on set tomorrow. We’ll have a fun day of it.”

Jason smiled briefly, thinking of the lead actress in his dad’s film, Tammy Sheep. She was really nice and always had a huge smile for Jason when she saw him.

His dad flipped off the light and closed the door, plunging his room into partial darkness. His Batman nightlight, which his dad had gotten him after they saw the Lego version, lit the room in a faint yellowish glow.

Jason looked at it, then back at the closet. The door was still closed. Should he put something in front of it just in case? He had his toy chest. It was heavy and wouldn’t be easy to move, but he thought he could push it across his room.

No, that wouldn’t work. He remembered he had tried to move it once when his mom was vacuuming, but had to wait for her to help him.

What else did he have that could block the door?

He had himself… He could sit against it, but then how would he sleep? Well, he supposed he could sleep on the floor in front of it.

He pulled himself out of bed and crept across the floor, walking on his tiptoes. For each step he took, he held his breath. He heard his dad in the bathroom, then walking down the hall to their bedroom.

Finally, Jason made it to the door. He planned on sitting down immediately, but thought since he had made it this far, maybe he should listen first.

He slowly leaned forward…

The door clicked open. He hadn’t even touched it yet, but had been close enough to see it open a crack, then a little bit more, hearing the unmistakable growl on the other side.

Jason didn’t hesitate. Remembering how the monster had torn through the walls in his dad’s movie, he knew holding the door closed would never work. He shouldn’t have wasted his time. He should have just snuck out of the room and slept on the couch or on the floor in his parents’ room. Although, with his dad home, he probably wouldn’t have been allowed to sleep in there tonight. Even if he had, the monster would still get them all anyway. It was coming after them. It was going to get him.

At least he could warn his parents. His dad, the monster slayer, probably wouldn’t be able to save him, but he could save his mom. He had to warn them!

“Dad!” he screamed as he dove into his bed, quickly pulling the covers over his head.

* * * *

Jason followed behind his dad as he walked down the hallway. The security guard, a larger, older man, led them through the maze of offices until they reached a door. Jason’s dad unlocked it, then nodded to the guard.

“Thanks for letting us in, Chuck. He just won’t go to sleep until I show him.”

His dad stepped into the room, flicking on the lights to flood the room with the glow of fluorescents. Jason’s breath caught. He had been on his dad’s set a few times, but it was usually with an assistant watching him and they always stayed to the set. Now he saw where the magic was created.

Wardrobe carts, packed with costumes, filled the room. Most were normal clothes, but as the carts went deeper into the room, Jason saw various creatures hanging there. At the end of the room was a full porcupineman costume staring right at them, it’s large size towering over the rest of the wardrobe.

Jason followed his dad into the room, his mouth hanging open. Most of the clothes were just regular stuff, like jeans and jackets, but occasionally there was something really strange. He was sure he saw a costume from the cheesy old movie Flash Gordon. Although, after he walked past it, he guessed it could have just looked like it. It might have just been some knockoff that his dad used in the background of his own movie. Like something a character in the movie was watching on TV.

Anything was possible. After all, it was the movies.

“So, this is where we keep all the monsters,” his dad said, running his fingers along some of the costumes hanging from the rack. He pointed to the porcupineman at the end.

“Wow. Is this where you work?”

His dad chuckled as he bent down, picking his son up. “Yep, this is where daddy works.” His dad looked at the security guard as he approached.

“Jason, your dad here…” Chuck nodded toward Jason’s dad as he joined them, “runs the whole shebang. He makes all those scary horror films that I hear is keeping you up at night.”

Jason’s dad laughed as he lowered him back to the floor. They were near the end of the row now, stepping closer to the darkness of the room. The light just caught the hard surface of the hideous monstrosity before them.

“I’m not afraid of the movies. What I saw was real.” He was certain of it. Jason hadn’t seen all of it, but he’d heard it, and he had seen the claws. They were just like the ones a few feet away from him, and now that he could see them, they were longer than his hand, each one looking sharp enough to tear through flesh and bone.

His dad turned to the guard. “He saw Stickler coming out of his closet.”

Chuck grinned and bent down, looking past his dad to talk directly to Jason.

“So you saw the Stickler, huh? Yeah, he’s a creepy one. I hate to come in here at night on my rounds because he scares the hell outta me.” He looked back at his dad as Chuck straightened, holding his back, which made audible pop. “That’s the current sequel you’re doin’, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, that’s what we’re filming. Hey, did you hear why Celeste has Frankie here…” He nodded to the large monster positioned at the end, “out like this? She’s usually much better about closing up shop.”

“I thought I saw her leaving with that new P.A. just as I was coming onto the lot. Not really sure.”

Jason inched toward the large creature. The light from above cast a shadow over him, but he wanted to see. He needed to see the eyes. In his room, the eyes had been red, but they were always black pits in the movies.

Throughout the room, the lights started to flicker. Jason jumped back to grab his dad’s leg, making Chuck laugh.

“Jason. Come on.” His dad reached out and lifted the large claw of the costume so Jason could look at it. “It’s fake. A piece of silicone and latex.”

Jason reached out and slowly touched the outstretched claw. It was cool and smooth, like plastic. It almost felt like his toys. He recalled playing with a toy knife. It had those same hard edges that looked like they would be sharp, but when he’d stab his friends, it wouldn’t hurt them.

He brought it up to his nose and sniffed it. It stank, the acrid stench smelling almost like one of his dad’s farts. The ones his dad always blamed on random toads hiding in their house.

“It stinks.”

“It’s latex and foam. You would have to talk to the FX guys. They could give you the details. But it’s not alive and it’s not real. Okay?”

Jason looked over the glove, turning it over in his hand and studying its long nails and the fake porcupine quills. They bent as he pushed on them. He couldn’t control the laugh, realizing he was playing with this horrific monster and that it was harmless. Man, what he would give to wear it. Sure, it was much too large for him, but if he had one his own size, he could wear it to school. How would Jimmy like that? He wouldn’t tease Jason anymore. Not after he chased him down wearing this bad boy.

His dad reached over him and tugged on the hanger the costume hung on. Jason watched him, realizing his dad wasn’t trying to get the costume off. With a tug, he pulled the monster’s head away from the body.

The lights flickered around them, then winked off, leaving them in darkness. Only a red glow from the far end of the room illuminated the still shapes of the costumes around them. Jason tightened his grip on his dad’s leg, holding his breath as he tried to look everywhere at once. The glow…

It was the eyes. It had to be. The beast was there and it was going to get them.

“Shoot it!” Jason cried out, pointing at the red glow.

The lights flickered back on, but continued to flash intermittently.

“Jason, cool it.” But Jason kept hold of his leg and wouldn’t look away from the door. Above it was the large EXIT light. “Hey, Chuck, in the morning, give maintenance a call. Get someone in here to get this damn light fixed.”

“I’ll have them get right on it.”

Jason’s dad turned back around to face him, the mask still in his hand. It was black with a long nose and quills sleeked back on the top and around the sides. The eyes were deep pits of darkness, left open for special lenses to be inserted.

Jason couldn’t stop the shiver that ran through him as he took a step back. Even in his father’s hand, the beast looked hungry and ready to tear into him.

“See, it’s fake. The monster is only a creature in the movie. Okay?”

Jason stood there, afraid to move, just staring into where the eyes should be.

“Jason, come on. Touch it. Feel it. It’s silicone and plastic.”

Jason slowly reached out, his heart pounding in his chest. He felt every painful breath as he touched the mask. He ran his finger over it and pushed down on the point of one of the quills, bending it.

“It’s like rubber.”

“That’s kinda what it is. It’s foam rubber.”

Jason moved closer to the mask. “That’s cool.”

“Yeah, it is.”

“Your dad’s pretty cool. He came up with all this,” Chuck said, smiling warmly at Jason.

His dad put the mask back with the costume.

“Thanks, man.” His dad nodded to Chuck before turning back to Jason.

He knew his dad was trying to calm him down, but he just didn’t get it. Jason already knew movie monsters weren’t real. When would his dad listen and believe there was a real one in his closet?

“Hey, buddy, you know what? Tomorrow’s Saturday. Why don’t you come to the set with me and watch us shoot a couple scenes?” He smirked. “I think Tina’s getting killed tomorrow. It should be a lot of fun. You can meet Mike. I’m sure he’ll let you play with some of her intestines.”

“Really?”

Sure, Jason had been on set a few times, but never during a killing scene. Most times, he got stuck hanging out with actors and actresses so he stayed out of the way. He wasn’t sure, but guessed it had more to do with no one to watch him at home, so he had his own version of babysitters…aka actors.

“Yeah. You’re getting old enough now. Just remember. You will have to be quiet and stay out the way. Okay?”

His dad and Chuck stepped away, walking down the aisle. Jason could just barely hear them as he turned, checking out the monster costume. He was finally going to see it tear someone apart. How cool was that?!

“Thanks for letting us in tonight, Chuck,” Jason heard his dad say just as a low growl emanated from the costume.

He quickly stepped back, looking at it. What was that? This wasn’t the real monster. There was no way it could be making noise. It must have some kind of sound effects built into it that he had just triggered. Or maybe his dad had. Maybe he had some remote and was just messing with him.

Jason turned to look at his dad, who was still turned away, talking to Chuck.

“No problem. You pay the bills, right…”

His dad wasn’t paying any attention to him. If he were messing with him, wouldn’t his dad be watching, seeing if he’d react? Was this some kind of elaborate joke on him? Had Chuck rigged everything before he had gotten there?

“After all, it’s your studio. You can come by any time.”

Jason backed away from the costume, watching as the eyes started to glow red. Its shape filled out as it hung there, getting taller. Jason’s jaw dropped. He couldn’t look away, but he also couldn’t say anything. His mouth wasn’t working. He wanted to scream and warn his dad as there was no way this was a joke, this thing was real, but no words escaped him.

“Yeah, but I just don’t like to interrupt in the middle of the night like this.”

When Jason backed into his dad, he looked over his shoulder at him. “Jason!”

“Dad!” His mouth finally formed the words just as the lights went out again. The last thing Jason saw before everything fell away to the red glow of the EXIT light was a lingering claw as the monster slipped behind the wardrobe.

Jason stumbled in the darkness, not able to control himself from jerking back. He tripped on his dad’s leg and felt himself fall. It was an odd sensation of having no control, seeming to be in slow motion. Then he was in the costumes and felt something digging into him.

“Jason, don’t be making a mess. People have to clean that up in the morning. Get out of there.”

He tried to yell, but he couldn’t. The thoughts screamed though him.

Don’t scream at me about the mess. Your monster, the one you told me wasn’t real, yeah, that one! Well he just came to life and is now stalking us! And when you designed it, you made it black with a thousand needles on its back, then gave it large fangs and claws so it could rip you apart! Yes, that thing is alive and we are now all its food, but don’t worry. I’ll try not to make too much of a mess getting away from it!

Jason wanted to scream at his father, but his mouth still struggled to form coherent sounds into words. He got out the occasional “dad”, but his mind still fumbled with the rest. It didn’t help that he had fallen into a heap of clothes that kept tangling around him. The more he tried to unwrap himself, the more it seemed they reached out to grab him. It was like the clothes had found a life of their own and were trying to subdue him.

“It’s just the lights. Come on, bud. You’re not afraid of the dark.”

Jason wanted to cry. Sure, he wasn’t afraid of the dark, but what was in the dark. His dad never realized all the creepy and evil things hiding there. How would he ever get him to understand? He had to keep fighting. He had to get free. The monster was on the loose, and Jason must warn them. They hadn’t seen it. They didn’t know it was coming for them.

And where was the monster? Jason tried to look toward the costumes on the other side, but it was hard in the dim light. From what he could see, it looked like all the clothes around them kept shifting, dancing in the shadows.

There had to be more of the monsters. There were more costumes, right? What if they had all come alive? He had to get free and warn his dad.

He wiggled his way down, feeling his shirt slip up as he did, finally able to free himself from the mess of clothes. He looked up at the shape highlighted in the gloom of the red emergency light, hoping it was his dad.

“The costume came to life, Dad! It’s alive!”

“Jason!” The shape scowled.

That was when Jason saw the Stickler’s glowing red eyes. It was next to them on the other side of the aisle, just beyond the next row of costumes.

“Dad, look!”

Jason pushed on his dad, urging him to turn around. He didn’t turn to where Jason pointed. Instead, his gaze lingered on where the costume should be, but the space was now empty. When the creature’s eyes moved, it must have caught his dad’s attention because he turned, seeing the red orbs slipping into the darkness beyond the other costumes.

“It’s just a trick of the light, Jason. Hey, Chuck, there isn’t anyone in maintenance that would be here this time of night?”

Another low growl emanated from the dark. This time, it was loud enough that they all heard it. Jason watched as his dad stiffened, his eyes focused on where he had seen the red eyes.

“What was that?”

His dad looked at where the costume had been and started taking a step back, keeping his arm protectively in front of Jason.

That’s right. He is the daddy monster in his own right, and anything coming after his little guy is going to have to go through him first.

Jason looked up at him in admiration, remembering when he was younger, before his dad was gone all the time to make movies. His dad would come home from work, throw open the front door, and roar, loudly proclaiming that the daddy monster had arrived and he smelled a little one.

That same man would then be the one to take him to bed later that night and kneel to say their prayers. Then Jason would climb into bed and his dad would lean down to kiss him on the forehead, whispering the daddy promise to him that he would always protect him.

His dad took another step back, this one making Jason move with him. He just barely heard his dad as he whispered, “Where’s the costume?”

A loud roar shook the rack next to them, Jason barely seeing the clothes shifting. That was when he saw the large claw rise above them, the red glow making it look like blood dripped down its long talons. Then the claw came down. Jason felt the warm spray as his dad cried out.

His dad tried to back away quickly, but he had forgotten Jason was behind him. He stumbled and fell back, blood gushing from his chest. Jason felt it soaking him. They landed on the cold cement, his dad holding his arm tightly to his chest. He rolled back and forth on the floor, cursing as the pain coursed through him.

“Wes! Wes! Come in, Wes!” Chuck screamed into his walkie-talkie. Jason looked over at him and saw him backing toward the far door.

“Roger, Chuck. How’s the tour going?” the voice hissed from the radio.

The costumes rustled again. Jason turned back toward them, then started pulling himself away. His dad still lay on the floor, losing a lot of blood. They needed to do something, get him to a doctor.

The red eyes appeared again, staring at him through the clothes. Jason stopped, transfixed by those large red orbs.

“Jason! Run to the door!” his dad screamed. He fought to get back to his knees, blocking Jason’s view of the approaching creature.

“Call 9-1-1, Wes. Now. We need an ambulance here ASAP. Mr. Loomis is hurt.”

“Damn. What the hell is going on down there?!”

Jason’s dad pushed himself the rest of the way up, swaying back and forth. Still, he moved, taking little steps backward. Jason watched him as he rushed to the door, but he couldn’t just leave his dad. He tried to think of anything they could do. What did they do in the movies…

Well, the girl the creature chased usually went into some random cabin and found a flamethrower. Yeah, like they were going to find one of those around…

Wait, this is a film studio.

If it was in the movies, would it be with the wardrobe? Probably not. It would probably be with the special effects equipment.

“I don’t know. You best get the police here, as well.” Chuck yelled into his walkie-talkie with one hand, fumbling to remove his gun with the other. Jason knew Chuck was not some rookie security guard, but didn’t think he had ever seen anything like this before. “Holy shit.”

Jason made it past him and turned to look back for his dad. The Stickler loomed over him. That large snout emitted deep growls each time Jason’s dad took another step back.

“Dad!”

Finally, Chuck got the gun free and pointed it at the creature. “I don’t know who the hell you are or what you think you are doing, but get away from Mr. Loomis…now. Then come out from there and put the costume on the floor.”

Jason backed up until he was in the safety of the hallway, crying, when he heard the scream. It wasn’t even recognizable as his father, but knew it was. Then the sound quieted, turning into a gurgle before stopping. The silence stretched on before he heard something fall to the floor. Jason turned away. He couldn’t watch anymore. He knew what had just happened. His father was dead.

Still in the room, Chuck turned to Jason. “Get to the security office! Police are on the way.”

Jason turned and ran like he had never run before. What was he going to do? He had to find the prop room. Where was it? It wasn’t like the rooms were labeled. Most people working on the set knew where everything was, but what about somebody new? How would they ever find anything in the maze of hallways?

He had hoped he’d be far enough away when the gunshots started, but he wasn’t. He heard them. First, it was one, then another. Then a series of them came in rapid succession that ended in a scream, followed by a thud. Jason knew Chuck had just crashed into the wall. He didn’t turn to look. He just kept running.

It was no use looking for the prop room. He was just a kid. What was he going to do anyway? He’d only seen flamethrowers in the movies where it seemed like everyone had them lying around and anyone could figure how to use them. While that may be true of adults, Jason had no clue.

It had just killed his dad. He had tried to warn him, but his dad hadn’t believed him. He was dead.

Jason had to push away the memories of him because he knew going down that rabbit hole was just going to drop him there in the hallway and leave him a crying mess, waiting to be eaten.

I ain’t no crybaby.

Somewhere down the long hallway behind him, he heard an earsplitting howl that shook the walls and brought him to his knees, but he couldn’t stop and didn’t let it slow his momentum. Keep going, keep going, keep going. He knew he had to, but the thing must be getting closer, the hallway allowing it to move more freely.

Damn, just how big is this place.

He wasn’t sure of the answer. The few times he’d been in the building, he’d never gotten the full tour, but he knew his dad had gotten the space really cheap. It was some kind of abandoned warehouse. They had converted it and used a lot of the unfinished areas as sets. The offices, including the security office, were toward the front of the building.

But what if he were going the wrong way? He could end up on one of the sets, which would be perfect. What better area to be chased to by a horror movie monster than a horror movie film set. If the creature didn’t kill him, he felt like his young heart was going to explode. He already felt the wetness down his leg, knowing that he’d wet himself. When had that happened? Must have been when he fell as he ran away.

He saw the door up ahead marked EXIT, but that didn’t seem right. When they got there, he knew they hadn’t come from that way. Near it was a turn in the hallway. He could have sworn that was the direction they had come. So which way should he go?

Exit… Go for the exit. Get out of here.

Jason wasn’t sure why he didn’t listen to himself as he turned down the hallway, running into something tall and hard. Grunting, he bounced back, landing on the floor with a thump, his tailbone screaming in pain.

“What’s going on?” a deep voice asked.

He looked up to see a tall, dark-skinned man standing over him. Jason could barely stammer a response. He had no idea how he looked, vaguely remembering his father’s blood on him.

“Creature… Alive… Killed them,” he gasped.

“Get in there,” the man ordered, nodding to a room.

Jason saw the security uniform and guessed this must be Wes, the man Chuck had contacted on the radio. Jason looked past him, seeing a brightly lit room, a bank of security monitors sitting there. The monster was on one of them. No wonder Wes had already been coming down the hallway. When it neared the camera, it’s massive shape reared up to look at it. No, it was looking at him. Jason didn’t know how, but he knew it was. It wanted him. Then, with a swipe of its large claw, the camera signal went dead.

Jason ran into the room and looked back, waiting for the security guard to join him. He didn’t. He just stood there, looking scared in the dim light from the room. With a hard swallow, the man looked back at him. “Shut the door.”

Jason did, then locked it.

He waited, his heart pounding in his ears. Then he heard the gunshots and more screaming. Jason didn’t know what was worse—the sounds of those screams, or the silence when they stopped.

* * * *

When they found me the next morning, I was sitting in a ball by the door. They had to coax me away from the door just to get it open. I was the only one left. The creature had spared me…for reasons I only discovered later.

My father and the two security guards were both found, their bodies badly mutilated. Of course, I didn’t find that out until years later, but I had a decent idea of what had happened to them. I’d seen parts of it, which would haunt my nightmares for the rest of my days.

See, monsters are real. They don’t need to be something we create on the movie screens because they are in the world all around us. I just recently saw a new horror film that featured a terrifying clown who eats children. It didn’t take long before clowns were seen everywhere. Then the neighbor kid came up missing. I’m not blaming the movie. The movie didn’t take the kid.

Yes, I still watch horror films, although I often laugh at much of their ridiculousness. After all, those monsters aren’t real.

I just keep telling myself that it’s only a movie. Right now, you’re telling yourself it’s only a story…

But is it?

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