“Monsters” by Tessa Fontaine

They fell all at once, a Saturday, late-morning, late September sun warm on all the still-tanned shoulders of good people doing yard work. We were washing the car. Or, actually, taking a break before washing the car. You were wearing shorts and socks with little balls at the heel because you thought they were funny, and it was the kind of day where we woke up tired and sort of upset about something nearly meaningless from too much gin the night before and each decided, without consulting, to apologize by wearing something funny. The buckets were lined on the lawn beside thick sponges. We were having cigarettes. Then they came.

For the first thirty or so minutes after I dragged your body inside, I was too scared to go back out to get help or see which of the neighbors had survived. The monsters tore through us and were gone so quickly.

Do you understand this? There were monsters falling from the trees.

I stood over your body, ankles turned the wrong direction, kneecaps shattered, moon-shaped slices across your thighs and abdomen, a torn-off breast, holes through the chest like they were trying to sieve you, slashes through the neck and a claw stuck in through the chin and out the mouth. Your eyeballs were gone. Your hair was gone too. I wanted to reach down and hold you to me and tell you we are so much more than these bodies, we are almost moths or sea-water, we’re horizons, but of course I said nothing. I’m selfish like that.

They were big. They made sounds like URR-AAAAGH and BREEEHHH and had no pupils in their eyes and oozed yellow gel from metal spears sticking out from their heads and many layers of teeth with saliva made of blood and giant bird beaks for hands and a shadow across their entire body which made it hard to tell if they were made from real physical horrible things, or made of light and vapor, something that could disappear and then reappear right behind you, touching your bare back.

But they didn’t touch me. I saw them, but they just felt like wind.

There is no way to know exactly how long the monsters had been hiding in the trees, but in some form or another, they’ve probably been there forever. How can something like that sneak in? No, they built. Were building. It goes like this: the streets grew houses and apartment complexes and broke their skin to root trees which began moving upwards and thickening, vines climbed up lattices, people rode bikes, people collected their papers, people brought home quarts of milk and all along things were growing in the trees.

This is not some way of explaining something else; there was actual horror nurtured by sun and water and probably chlorophyll.

When I finally gained the nerve to move aside the blinds, I couldn’t see anything happening anymore. I waited a lot of minutes, staring out the window, holding my two hands over my mouth and not looking down at what you’d become. Outside, I saw only lines of blood and wet, pink nodes of flesh scattered around our yard. The tree was still and soft. I didn’t want to call for help in case the monsters heard and came back to finish you off or, really, to finish me off, so I continued staring until I was actually gagging from guilt.

I opened the front door and stepped outside. We needed help. Mucous and guts. I walked a few steps and, still sensing nothing, walked a few more. Down the block I saw only trees reaching up and getting thicker, the regular apartment complexes and houses, our buckets of cooling water, waiting for soap. Then, suddenly, there was movement in the trees a few houses down and I ran back inside, bolted the door and slammed back against it. I threw up all over your body. We stayed like that for a long time.

Of course, they never came back.

It was quite some time before I realized: you were the only one. I know that you’ll wake up. Right now you’re far away, as far as you’ve ever been and as far as you can go before you can’t ever come back. I often take your arm and bring it up slowly so your fingertips touch my closed eye and forehead. Can you feel that? Will you believe that I’m sorry sometimes the world is as terrible as it seems? I know I don’t deserve for you to wake up. I am a selfish beast and there are probably still monsters in the trees, they will probably stew there for a long time until I’m not paying attention any more and then begin this unbelievable campaign again. But still. Still.

Are you inside there somewhere? Will you come back for me?


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