A Single Leaf - The Land of Monsters - The Man With Ten Eyes
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Part 3 - The Man With Ten Eyes
Timothy and Lucy watched, immobilized, as into the room walked a tall, slim man. He had to duck his head to get through the door. Lucy squeezed Timothy’s hand again, but stood silent. The window stood partly open behind them, but there was no escape that way. No trees to climb into, no vines or siding to use to get down. Instead they waited. At first the man seemed perfectly normal. Brown hair, stubble on his chin, a friendly smile. He wore a suit and shiny black shoes.
Then, so brief Timothy thought he imagined it, the man’s face changed. Eyes covered his forehead and cheeks, his mouth twisted into a wicked grin, pointy teeth cutting his lips. His fingernails extended by several inches, all filed to bloody points.
Timothy backed against the window, pulling Lucy with him. Bear hissed at the man. His face had returned to normal, all smiles. The woman entered behind him, calm and silent.
“Children,” he said. “Welcome to my home.” His face changed again, only for a second, and Lucy jumped. “Please, come with me. I promise you will not be harmed.” He extended a hand toward Lucy, smiling as he waited for her to take it.
She stared at the hand, trembling, and held onto Timothy tighter.
“We didn’t mean to come here,” Timothy said, his voice coming out just above a whisper. “Please, we just want to go back home.”
“You will, I promise. But first, come with me.”
The woman stood perfectly still behind him, not a muscle moving. She didn’t even blink.
“Take my hand,” the man cooed, smiling at Lucy. “Take it. That’s it, come on.”
Slowly Lucy reached her hand out. Timothy smacked it down, glaring at her.
“Lucy,” the man said. She looked at him then, eyes wide, and reached her hand once more toward his.
“Stop!” Timothy said, but she didn’t even seem to hear him. He tried to grab her hand, but it was like trying to move a tree limb.
The man’s face changed again and Bear jumped at him, teeth bared and claws extended. She barely scratched him before launching herself away, just before the man swiped at her. She made it out the door and disappeared. The man turned back to Lucy. A long red gash crossed his face and his smile faltered. Timothy tried one more time to pull Lucy to him, but to no avail. His panic rising, he dashed around the man, around the woman, who still hadn’t moved, and out into the hallway.
The birds were still there, all frozen in flight. Bear was nowhere to be seen. He rushed back to the stairs and descended, his footsteps echoing through the house. The front door stood open so he dashed outside, only then realizing he was crying.
The black clouds above tumbled against each other, their rumblings rolling across the land. Hundreds of frozen birds speckled the sky. All around the forest pressed in, untamed and hungry. He looked back toward the house, thinking of Lucy. His gut told him to go back for her, but his fear kept him firmly in place. He didn’t know what he could do for her.
Beyond the house, far in the distance, the orange glow had grown. Before he had time to consider it more the woman’s soft lullaby echoed from inside the house. She appeared in the doorway a moment later, still singing.
“Timothy,” she said, pausing her song. “Come to me.” She extended both arms toward him.
Of their own will his feet shuffled forward.
The woman sang again, arms still extended. Behind her the man appeared, keeping to the shadows.
“Leave me alone!” he tried to say, but his voice wouldn’t work. A few more feet and he’d be at the front steps.
Then the house rippled, like a wave across a body of water, and a loud boom! filled the air. Then again, and again, until finally a great crack! thundered across the land and the left front side of the house burst outward. Wood splinters and dust exploded out, filling the air, and when the dust cleared his grandmother stood there.
“Timothy!” she called.
Like a spell broken his feet stopped moving forward. He ran to her, his limbs his own once more, as the woman screamed and the birds resumed their swarm. The man stepped out onto the porch next to the woman, his face grave.
When he reached his grandmother she clutched him to her with one hand. With the other she made an arc through the air, creating an invisible barrier that the birds couldn’t penetrate. The woman stood in place, still screaming, while the man strode toward them quickly. He, too, was stopped at the barrier, but he beat on it, his face transforming in his rage. All of his eyes flashed in anger, his bloody nails piercing the barrier and creating cracks spiderweb thin. Timothy clutched his grandmother, sure he would get through.
His grandmother kissed the top of his head and hugged him tight. “Close your eyes, okay?”
He obeyed. A great pressure pushed him backward and he stumbled, falling, but instead of landing he continued to fall, the woman’s screams fading. Before it disappeared completely a loud roar filled his ears, inhuman, beastly.
Then it, too, was gone and he landed on the ground with a soft thud! He opened his eyes, half expecting to see the house and dark forest, but instead he saw his own house, the familiar woods he grew up in, and the village beyond. He glanced about for his grandmother, for Lucy, for the monstrous man and woman, but he was alone.
The sun sailed high in the sky, the gray pallor submitting to the rule of the star. Timothy stood, brushed off his pants, and went inside the cottage. The food his grandmother had made before she left sat uneaten, the house quiet and empty. All at once the terror he’d barely held in check rose within him and he crumpled to the floor and wept.