THAT FIEND OF MINE

A SANTHARIAN MYSTERY TALE

 
The Tales of Monsonius   
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Introduction. This is a story about dreams, nightmares and others. About monsters and people afraid of monsters, about hopes and fears, about darkness descending on us, and about confronting what threatens to devour us. It's a humorous tale too. And a compassionate one. And somewhat bizarre to boot. And a thought-provoking one, providing some food for thought - quite literally...

 

 friend once told to me that he kept wondering about the meaning of dreams. So he asked me whether I had strange dreams too.

"Oh, all the time," I told him, and was fine with it. After all, if a dream isn't strange, what would be the point of it? One might as well confuse it with reality.

"Well, let's hear it: What are you dreaming?" he then wanted to know. As in fact I remembered one particular dream, I told him the following:

How it began and what was in the middle of it was hazy at best, but I know where I ended up: in a moldy, almost pitch black kind of passageway.

I couldn't see a thing. The powers that be had thrown me into an underground cave, or even a dungeon. It appeared very much like one, for I stumbled upon a couple of unpleasant obstacles on my way: among them greasy, slimy pools and tiny hollow pipe-like things that went crack! when I treaded on them. I’m sure my bare feet drew some blood, though it's not that I could see any in the darkness. Maybe it was better that way, I thought. At some point I came to the conclusion that the dungeon floor was probably littered with bones. And I didn’t even want to know about the origin of those pools I came across from time to time.

From the little I could make out, the place was narrow. When I spread my arms I touched both walls, which were smooth to the touch, whether natural or man-made was impossible to discern. What I realized though was that the corners were sticky with cobwebs, and the air was chilly and forbidding. Oh, and did I mention that it was moldy already? Well, moldy it was! Can't stand mold... All I wanted was to turn on my heel and get out there as fast as I possibly could!

Which, of course, I couldn’t.

There are some things in dreams you just know, and this was one of them: I knew that there was no way of turning back. That nobody was around to help me. That I had to push through amidst all the adversities thrown at me, because that’s how it was supposed to be. Who am I to question the working of dreams? And thus I plodded along in this gloomy dungeon of mine, kicking bones, collecting cobwebs on my way and fearing that creepy-crawlies might at any moment clamber or wriggle up my leg in that creepy-crawly way of theirs. – Little did I know that there was more in store for me!

At first though, as I proceeded further, I noticed that the darkness that engulfed me was fading in the distance – just a tad, but still. Ah, light! I thought. Oh heavenly bliss! Stay put, I’m on my way! So there was indeed an end to this abysmal corridor! I was thrilled! And with every step I took my anticipation of finally leaving this sordid place behind grew stronger.

That’s when my hopes were shattered.

Somewhere along the passage I suddenly saw a shadow emerging, and with its appearance the faint light I had cherished so, dimmed out.

An unfamiliar grisly sound filled the air.

It made me stop dead in my tracks.

Something rumbled and roared and as it moved it was rasping and rattling. The heavy breathing sounded like someone pumping a run-down smithy’s bellows, drawing and pushing air only with extreme difficulty. Each breath was followed by an ominous high-pitched click that reverberated multiple times from the walls, before, after a slight pause, the broken bellows got to work again, repeating the whole process with the same unnerving imperfection. Whatever that thing was, it was still far away in the distance.

With frightening certitude the intimidating sounds became louder, and with them whatever produced their abhorring rhythm drew nearer too. And nearer.

My chest was pounding rapidly.

I can’t say that the creature actually walked, for it seemed to drag its weight along like a monstrous slug or at least a beast bereft of legs. If it had any limbs to walk on at all, it was too fat to use them. What was certain however was its foul stench that preceded it, and combined with the mould populating the recesses of the walls it was the most gruesome attack on my nostrils I could remember.

The silhouette of something big, something enormous, something so utterly terrifying now was only a couple of feet away, and still it was trudging on in my direction.

Rasping, rattling, click-click-click.

In fact the whole passageway was almost jammed with the colossus, its heavy body obstructing the faintest light I had welcomed so much just moments before. More and more my hopes of escape got buried. The closer the shadow, the less I managed to discern. Given the fact that I couldn’t see that much in the first place, things worsened just a little. Problem was, they had been bad in the first place.

I remained rooted on the spot.

Maybe I hoped that if I stayed that way long enough, I’d turn invisible, immaterial, and the creature would walk right past me, or rather through me. Well, it had other plans.

Rasping, rattling, click-click-click.

The last luminous isles that framed the behemoth succumbed to the looming shadow. I felt like the main attraction in a premature burial: As if I were trapped in a coffin, looking out from below through a tiny, tiny window, getting bit by bit covered with the inevitability of my doom in form of shovels of earth raining down on me.

The monster was close already. Very close.

A loud, repulsive gurgling sound mixed with the heavy breathing. There was scraping and cracking too. I imagined giant clutches squashing a human skull somewhere along the creature's way, maybe dragging along a knight's shield or the plate armor an unfortunate fellow once wore. It was unnerving. Well, I could only guess anyway. All I saw was utter blackness, and quite lot of it.

Rasping, rattling, click-click-click. Gurgling, cracking, scraping...

There it was: the beast. Right in front of me.
 

The fiend that feasts on fear...

Picture description. The fiend that feasts on fear. Image drawn by Isilhir.

“Aaaaaaaaaaaaargh...” I went.

“Roaaar,” the shadow groaned.

“Aaaaaargh...” I repeated.

“Rooooooaaar!” it groaned again.

“Aargh...” I said once more, not sure what else I might add.

“Roooooooooooaaar!”

I just stood there, having run out of words. I wasn’t used to conversations with monsters.

The creature rasped and rattled. Maybe it had run out of words too. Click-click-click.

At least it had stopped and didn’t lumber right over me. Though I waited for it to happen. I tried to distract myself by thinking about words I ought to consider as my final ones, but then remembered that nobody was around to appreciate them. Except that unspeakable horror incarnate. And I didn't care that much what it heard or not I thought.

The creature snarled. “Sssay your prayyyersss!” it produced in a coarse, raspy voice that shook me to the core.

I have to say, it took me by surprise.

“You... you... can talk?” I blurted out. I didn’t really think as I said it. It didn’t even occur to me to try to strike up a conversation with company like this. But the question had crossed my mind, and so it came out, blunt and brisk.

I wasn’t the only one who was surprised.

“Sssu... sssure I can talk,” the creature finally said as if it wasn’t used to much talking in its line of business. Maybe it tended to take care of the affair quick and easy: devour the prey, burp contentedly and leave a new load of bones on the floor for the next visitor to stumble upon. “Sssure I can talk,” it repeated, almost offended. Its words were slow and deliberate. “What do you thhhink I am? An oaf?”

It felt outlandish finding me where I was: trapped between two walls, a monster in front and no way back, darkness all around, talking to something I could barely see and which could eradicate me the very next moment.

I had no way out, and no weapon at hand. All I could do was talk. So I talked.

“I don’t even know what you are," I told my unknown opponent, stating the plain truth. “How would I know whether you could talk or not?”

“I aaam the fiiiend that feassstsss on fearsss,” the creature informed me, wheezing menacingly and concluding with a triple-click. “On your fearsss, that isss. I am the abominaaation you have created yourseeelf, the sssum of all your very own horrorsss. I’ve come, for it isss time to consssume you now in your entiiirety, liiittle one. Sssay good-bye to that sssorry ssself that’sss ssstill left of you!”

The beast sounded quite serious. It salivated with pleasure too, I heard that.

“Created by m–m–myself?” I stuttered, incredulous. I was quivering all over while reminding myself I shouldn’t be. After all, the fiend adhered to an unusual diet, and shaking like a leaf didn’t help matters. “You feast... on fear?” I asked. It was just small-talk, to make some conversation. I had got the message the first time. “Like others on meat, vegetables and fruit?” I added.

“Of courssse I do! Humansss like you never run out of feeear, I've heard, and you don’t neeeed to grow it...” There was a hiss and a blood-curdling attempt of a chuckle only a monster is capable of emitting. It had all those ugly little sounds that one could do without: guttural, coarse, vile. “Sssee what you’ve made out of me?” the beast went on. “I wasss a little sssomething when you were born, but you picked up quite a few nourishhhing thhhings on the way – and now look at meee! What do you sssay? Aren’t you proud of yourssself?”

“I–I-... W-w-well–... Su-u-ure...” I heard myself whisper and decided to find it a good thing that the blocked passageway was black as pitch. I had to take it for granted that a reasonable abomination stood in front of me. The way the creature smelled and sounded it was probably nothing short of a Netherworldly demon coveting another promotion.

There was a sound as though the fiend was baring its fangs, ready to strike.

“Well then,” it groaned. “Let’sss put an end to it, ssshall we? What about those prayersss? Got that all sssorted out?”

“D-d-don’t... d-d-don’t eat me!” I implored the monster. I couldn’t hide the quaver in my voice though.

“Harhar!” the beast rasped and rattled and triple-clicked in sheer amusement. “Begging getsss you nowhere, liiittle one! Haven’t I made myssself clear? I only eat thossse who let me. Well, and I sssenssse you’re ssshaking in your bootsss like never before, so there’sss liiittle I can dooo.”

I needed a plan!

“Just one moment!” I said quick-wittedly, my hands on my trembling knees, in a half-hearted attempt to keep them from shaking. Which of course proved rather pointless. “May... may I ask something?”

“As long asss it’sss not about having a sssmoke or a last meeeal... Even in nightmarisssh halls like these sssmoking is a nuisssance. All that sssulfur floating around isss easssily inflammable and I’d rather have you the wayyy you are, not roasssted! And asss for a last meal, well, that’sss my part asss we both know,” groaned the monster. “Ssso what isss iiit?”
I had to give it a shot: "Aren't you making a mistake with your diet? It's not very balanced," I said, tense but determined.

"Ssso? What are you trying to sssay, pipsssqueak? That I ought to try sssome fruit for a change or feassst on other people'sss fearsss too? Well, it doesn't work thhhat way! I'm your fiiiend. Sssimple asss that. Thisss isss personal, and it'sss all about you!"

I didn't like the sound of that. "I hear you, I hear you," I said. "But do you ever think of yourself too?" I then asked, inserting a touch of sternness in my voice. "You're talking about me, me, me..." As I tried focusing on my argument I almost forgot my disquiet.

The creature on the other hand seemed a bit flustered. "Sssure I think about myself," it replied, click-click-clicking more rapidly, its impatience rising. "Why do you thhhink I've come? In fact I am my main concern. You jussst happen to be part of it. The ssshort-lived part. Ssso everyone fulfillsss hisss purpose."

“Well I was wondering," I said. "I'm just concerned about you. If you only eat away and away you get terribly large, don't you?”

“Now who are you to criticize my sssize? Look, I have to be monssstrous, that'sss becaussse I'm – guess what? – a monssster!” said the monster and it had a point there. "The larger the more intiiimidatiiing!"

"You sure about that? Aren't you forgetting something?" I suggested to the blackness before me, listening to the beast’s creative way of breathing. The way the creature shifted around I was convinced it was thinking very hard.

“Look, there’sss little I can do,” the fiend finally stated. “That’sss what I am: Gobbliiing up fearsss isss what I’m sssupposssed to do, I’m that sssort of monster. You are living your little life out there, I inhabit your dreamsss and am happy with every crumb of angssst, dessspair and uneassse you provide for me. I even take the one or the other anxxxiety if you don’t have anythiiing better to offer.” The monster let out a particularly nasty rattle. “Sssee, the whole thing wasssn’t my idea. And if it meansss getting fatter and fatter, ssso be it. Actually, I’m getting preeetty good at it – all thanksss to you of courssse…”

“Well...” I hesitated. “Have you thought this through? What if...” – I didn’t even dare saying it. – “What if you actually do consume me? I mean, as a whole... Did you ever think of that?”

“I’d sssay: nice job!” the creature snarled and probably licked its dripping teeth with a long, grotesque tongue. That’s at least how I imagined it: dripping teeth and a long, grotesque tongue to complete a beast that looked hideous and abhorrent to boot, or that's what my imagination wanted me to see.

“And then what?” I argued, raising my voice. “You’d be as fat as this whole passageway! And probably get stuck in it!” My fear by now had been replaced by anger. "And the best of it: Don't you realize that if I don't exist, you don't either?"

The beast's snarl faded within an instant. It turned into a whimper reminiscent of a dog put to flight, tail between his legs.

“Because you’d have nothing more to eat!” I screamed at the top of my lungs. “You dumb fiend that feasts on fear!”

I had put all my courage into this. So much that my words echoed with such passion from the walls that I felt almost intimidated myself. If anything, it makes some great last words, I thought.

You dumb-umb-umb... fiend-ien-iend... that-at-at... feasts-easts-easts... on-n-n... fear-ear-ear! the walls kept talking, hammering it in.

I stood stock still, hardly breathing. I braced myself.

A long, heavy pressing silence hung in the air once the echo had subsided. Nothing happened. And then it continued that way some more.

The creature still rasped, rattled and click-click-clicked on of course in its broken-bellows kind of way. However, in spite of my insolent snub it didn’t roar at me or bite my head off. Not immediately anyway, I kept thinking.

Instead, after a while its coarse, raspy voice went: “You know, I never thought of it that way...”

“Well you should have!” I was quick with adding more fuel to the fire. Someone was getting into his stride.

The monster again shifted around uneasily making all sorts of unsettling noises. While regular mortals prefer peace and quiet when they do their thinking, monsters probably go the other way.

"Hmm..." the beast groaned, trying to put into words what transpired in its monstrous mind. "You mean: That in order to feassst on your fearsss I'd better have you around, riiight?"

"Exactly!" I said. "Think of it that way: Spare me and it will save your life!"

"In a ssstrange way that makes perfect sssense," the beast admitted and suddenly seemed already much smaller to me. “Tell you what, liiittle one," it then began. "Usssually I don’t make exxxceptionsss...”

“But?” I was all ears.

“But sssay, I’ll let you go for now...”

“Yes?”

“Will you guarantee to come back to me and feed me with fresssh... you know... sssorrowsss, doubtsss and a liiittle biiit of horror every now and then?”

“Oh,” I went. But upon considering the proposal for a bit, it seemed reasonable. “Sure I can,” I said. “The world is full of things to be afraid of anyway! For all intents and purposes, even if one should live happily and in bliss, there’s the fear that all these good things might be gone the very next instant. Not to mention toothaches, the hazards of bureaucracy, relationship troubles, it never ends! And if there isn’t enough to worry about, something new will come along that will give everyone the jitters, trust me! Oh, I’ll find something for you!”

“Hrmpf...” There came a somewhat satisfied groan from the creature. “Then it’sss settled,” it grunted an amiable kind of grunt. “I’ll help you and you help me, right?”

“I’m all for it!” I was ecstatic and beamed so radiantly in the absolute blackness of the passageway that I almost frightened away the darkness.

“Which meansss no dinner for me thisss time…” The fiend gave a sigh. “But maybe you’ll have something for me tomorrow, eh, friend of a fiend?” it added hopefully.

“We’ll see, what I can do, fiend of a friend...” I replied and sniggered. “If not tomorrow, then some other time. In the meantime learn to appreciate a nice, solid diet. A bit of fasting makes feasting the more enjoyable, I’ve heard! It all goes together...”
The creature grumbled reproachfully, but in good spirit.

“Say, now that we’ve cleared things up between us,” I said, noticing another problem I hadn’t thought of so far. “How do I get out of these walls?”

“Sssame way you came iiin,” the beast suggested. “Only the other way round! Just wake up, liiittle one…”

“Ah, I see! Thank you,” I told the darkness and the abomination it harbored. “Though I’m not that small actually to call me ‘little one’. In fact I’m –”

“Oh, I know you weeell enough, liiittle one! Don't be cheeeeky now,” the creature interrupted. “In dreamsss like thessse nobody is bigger than a wippersssnapper, and ssso are you... Well, off you go then if you mussst. Not that I wouldn’t mind having company – it’sss awfully lonely in that nightmarisssh dungeon of yoursss,” the creature groaned and click-click-clicked.

And then it click-click-clicked some more as if to say goodbye.

Well, and then I woke up.

So that's my strange dream. The dream about how I became friend with a fiend.

My friend, who had listened attentively to my tale, looked at me in disbelief. He said that his dreams were none of the sort. That he often had nightmares and used to wake up in the middle of the night, soaked in sweat, and didn't know what to make about it – which was the reason why he had asked in the first place. And my dream, he said, while strange and nightmarish too, turned out to be surprisingly different.

"Oh," I replied. "Nightmares I forget. The daydreams stay with me. Actually, I write some of them down."
 


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Mystery tale written by by Artimidor Federkiel View Profile