I’ve never considered myself a religious person. However, whether I like it or not, having grown up in a Catholic household has left its mark on me. I guess I should blame my mother for that. We lived alone together, as my father left her before I was even born. She was a stereotypical strict Catholic parent, never letting me get away with anything.
“As your grandfather always said….” she’d nag. It was the same old spiel every goddamn time, “your grandfather” this and “your grandfather” that. I’d never met him, since he died when my mother was very young, but over time I began to despise him. I loathed the fact that I had his values constantly shoved down my throat, but I eventually learned to live with it.
What I couldn’t learn to live with were the crosses. They were everywhere. Every single room in my childhood house had a small porcelain cross hanging on the wall, my room included. I didn’t mind it much at first, but as I grew older and my worldviews began to conflict with what it represented, I began to detest it. My mother and I had many arguments where I’d beg her to let me take it down. She always refused.
I lived for sixteen years with that God forsaken thing hanging in my room. One night, when I was twelve, an earthquake shook it off the wall, breaking it in two. Having heard it fall, my mother frantically rushed into my room and snatched the two pieces up. She went to the garage and glued them back together haphazardly. When she came back into my room I protested. I angrily told her that perhaps it was a sign from God that it didn’t belong in my room (I didn’t believe what I said, of course, I just needed an excuse that would resonate with her). When she hung it back on the wall she turned and met my eyes. I stopped yelling. She stared at me with a panicked expression, tears welling in her eyes. From then on I knew to stay quiet about it.
It hung there for four more years, until I had eventually had enough. I yelled at my mother; I told her that I didn’t want her beliefs forced upon me. In a fit of blind rage I yanked the cross off of the wall and threw it to the floor. It shattered into countless pieces. She screamed louder than I’d ever heard her scream before. She collapsed to the floor, bawling. She tried to put it back together. I yelled at her to get out of my room and leave me in peace. She refused, at which point I dragged her out of the room and locked the door. For the first time in years I felt comfortable in my own skin.
I could hear her knocking on my door as it grew dark. I ignored her, putting on my headphones. I don’t know exactly when I drifted off, but the next thing I remember was a faint scratching sound. Light from the hall trickled in under the door, illuminating my surroundings. I looked around confused, recounting the previous day’s events. I figured that I had imagined the sound and tried to fall back asleep. It only got louder. Eventually I could pinpoint its location: the closet. I sat up, slightly uneasy, staring at the closet door. It was ajar, and clothes were hung on the door frame.
I looked closely. After a moment I saw movement. The clothes flapped as if affected by the wind, but the air in my room was still.
I smelled it first. An awful stench assaulted my nostrils. I gagged and tears stung my eyes. The fetid odor, too, came from the closet.
Then I saw it. Protruding from my closet door was a hand. It was decayed, from what I could make out, as its bone was visible in patches around grayed, blemished skin. Its fingers were long and spindly, and was covered in a thin layer of hair.
I held my breath. I stared in abject horror as it continued to claw at the wall. I looked toward the hall door. I had to escape. I moved slowly, trying not to alert the thing of my presence. I swung my legs over the side of the bed and stood up.
A claw shot out from beneath my bed, slashing my Achilles tendon. I yelped in pain and hobbled into the corner of my room, facing the door.
Then, they emerged. In the low light I couldn’t make out much, but what I did see scarred me for life. The creature under my bed clawed its way out. It had no legs; it crawled toward me on its stomach, and what looked like flyblown guts trailed behind it. It had patches of long gray hair on its rotten skull. Its eyes were absent, leaving only cavernous sockets behind. Its mouth was filled with jagged teeth, which were bared in an inhumanly wide smile. It gurgled and spit up a revolting black liquid as it crawled toward me. The creature from the closet was no better; it had legs, but they seemed way too small to carry its immense weight. Its arms dragged on the floor as it hobbled toward me. Its face was mangled in a grotesque, bloody pulp of skin and bone. Even with its maimed face, I could tell it was smiling at me. I began to sob. I heard a banging on my bedroom door. I screamed and cried. I tried to look away. The wood of my bedroom door began to splinter and buckle with each pound.
The door broke down, and, bathed in light, stood my mother. She held something in her hand. She looked at me with tears in her eyes.
It grabbed her. The thing she was holding in her hands dropped to the hallway floor as she was ripped violently from the doorway and into my room. I looked away. I couldn’t watch. I heard her screams as they tore her apart, as well as the sickening crunch of bone. When it grew quiet again I opened my eyes. She was gone.
The door was open, and I made a run for it. I limped toward the door, stepping on something sharp. I winced in pain and I looked down: it was a piece of the cross. I eyed it for a moment, and, with no better plan in mind, I hurled it at the one from the closet. The moment it made contact with its hairy arm it began to wail in agony. I watched as its skin bubbled away from the bone. It was then that I saw what my mother had dropped: it was the cross from her room. I limped toward the door, in a panic. I fell down, my leg had given out. I reached for the cross, hearing the moans of the creatures as they approached.
I grabbed it and swiveled around on the floor, pointing it at them. The light from the hall glared off of it, and the creatures yowled in unison. They began to vibrate, and steam emanated from their bodies as their skin bubbled away from their bones. All that was left were puddles of gore. I wept until the sun rose in the window.
I’ve grown a lot since that day. I’m 38 now, and I have a son. Despite my beliefs, my wife and I have decided to raise him Catholic. He’s a troublesome little boy, but I love him all the same. Funnily enough, I often find myself quoting my mother whenever he misbehaves.
I truly hope that he knows that I want more than anything to keep him safe. He reminds me of myself; he’s defiant, iconoclastic. I still withhold my views, mind you. I doubt there is a God, and if there ever was, he probably abandoned us a long time ago. But I’ll be damned if I ever let my son go to sleep without that cross in his room.
Submitted April 16, 2019 at 12:01AM by wbud100