(WP) “Do not believe what you see. That monste…

The man is being carried away on a stretcher, screaming, eyes rolling and clawing his face. It’s mostly nonsense, but the teen next door catches the last of his shrieks before they pack him into the ambulance.“That monster stole my wife and child! My family is gone! Do not trust your eyes! It is clever beyond your most wild imaginings! Be on your guard–” The man’s words are abruptly cut off, closed by the ambulance doors, but the boy can still hear them, bouncing back at the paramedics in the cold metal box. The teen’s heart twists with pity; the neighbor does indeed sound quite mad. But he can’t shake the feeling that there’s a hidden grain of truth in his words.“Son, come away from the window,” His father says from the armchair, beckoning him closer. “It’s rude to stare, and that poor man has been through enough tonight, I think.” “I wasn’t trying to stare,” The boy replied, feeling his cheeks flush at this unfair assessment. “I was just… curious, that’s all.” “Or nosy, more like,” His father replied, laughing, though not unkindly. “Come away from the window."Reluctantly, his son obeyed, sitting on the couch with his handheld. Though the game’s music tried to entice him back into its brightly colored, eight-bit world, but his mind was much too full of reality to focus on make-believe right now.The silence hung in the air for a moment between father and son, as fragile as a soap bubble."Do you… Do you think that he could be right, Pop?” The son asked, frowning with worry, the man’s words echoing with an ominous timbre in his mind. “Could there be a creature, a monster, that really took his family?”  "I doubt it,“ His father replied, with little hesitation. "Maybe his mind just broke when his family left,” He added, shrugging.A spark lit to life in the boy’s mind; how was it that his father had known that the man’s family had left? It’s not as if they’d been close; they’d been cordial, but they didn’t really know each other, not that intimately. He looked at his father, frowning suddenly, studying him as if he’d never seen him before. Cold, dark fear skittered down his spine, and he struggled to remain calm.“Don’t worry, son. I’m sure that he’ll be just fine. And his family, too.” The boy turned back to the window, putting one palm on the cold glass. It was so fast that he almost missed it, but his father grinned, and for a moment, the image of his face wavered, flickering like a flame in the wind.In his mouth, sharp, pointed teeth gleamed, glistening with some kind of substance he couldn’t identify, and his eyes sparkled a bright, poisonous green, alight with mischief and pride. His son shuddered, turning away from the image, wondering if it was just a figment of his own overactive imagination.