The August Selected Writer is Jason Huebinger
Please feel free to email Jason at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ryder awoke to the sight of piercing green eyes staring down at him. The room was pitch-black, but the eyes glimmered against the dark as if they were backlit.
With a startled scream, he rolled away from the eyes and kept rolling until he fell out the bed; he landed on his back, his head hitting the edge of his nightstand. Sharp pain shot through his temple, causing him to feel dizzy as he ripped open the top drawer of the nightstand. Frantically, he pulled out the contents of the drawer: papers, electronics, pictures, birthday cards. But he did not find the one item he needed.
He reached up to turn on his lamp, but knocked it over. With shaky hands, he twisted the lamp’s knob; light poured out from under the lampshade, blinding him for a moment. When his vision cleared, he saw in his periphery vision that the stranger wore a black, hooded robe covering his—or her—entire body, the hands clasped together under baggy sleeves.
Ryder pulled open the bottom drawer, but the gun wasn’t there, either. In desperation, he grabbed a letter opener and extended it chest-level, the dull blade pointing at the unmoving, robed figure.
“Who the hell are you?” he shouted, his voice trembling. The stranger did not respond, though its green eyes remained fixed on Ryder.
Ryder realized he was looking at The Watcher. Oh my god, it’s The Watcher!
“Why are you here?” he asked, his fear growing. “I didn’t do anything, I swear it! You have nothing on me! Whatever you think I did, you’re wrong! I swear!”
He did not expect a response; of all the tales he had heard of The Watcher, not one involved a sudden capacity for compassion.
Slowly, Ryder walked towards the bedroom door, his back against the wall, the letter opener pointing at The Watcher. The hooded figure’s eyes followed Ryder, moving freely as if unrestrained by sockets.
Now only a couple feet from The Watcher, Ryder saw that there was no face under the robe. Two bright, green eyes floated in the middle of the dark; the large pupils blended into the black, creating the illusion of two levitating halos. No mouth, no nose, no hair. Just blackness and those terrible eyes.
He saw that an eye was outlined on The Watcher’s robe in red stitching. He sprinted to bedroom door; after slamming the door behind him, Ryder steadied himself against the wall and breathed deeply. His heart pounded against his chest as sweat poured down his forehead, stinging his eyes. Sliding down the wall, he fought back the urge to vomit; sitting on the floor, he fought the urge to cry.
Why is it here? he thought. Why me?
A couple minutes later, his heart slowed, and his brow dried. His thoughts shifted from why to how: How am I going to get out of this?
He considered calling his father, but he figured that would do more harm than good. He remembered the one conversation about The Watcher he had with his father: “I don’t know if it’s real,” his father had said. “But if it is, I’m guessing it only visits the guilty.”
There was only one way. He knew someone who knew about The Watcher; at least, someone who knew far more than Ryder did, as his knowledge on this subject consisted of rumor and conjecture. He stood, collected himself as best he could, and walked to the living room.
Ryder’s cell phone rested on a table under a Max Ernst print. The clock near the phone read “1:34.”
Screw it, he thought and dialed Sam’s number. Seven rings before a message said, “Hi, you’ve reached Sam Calin…”
He hung up and pressed in the numbers again; this time, after the third ring, there was a click before the sound of someone fumbling with the phone.
“Hello?” Sam asked, sounding sleepy.
“Hey Sam, this is Ryder. Ryder Alcott.”
“Ryder? What the hell…what time is it?”
“Why are you calling at this hour? The only reason I picked up is because I left the damn ringer on and I didn’t want you to wake Cathy. This had better be important. You’re not drunk, are you?”
“Sorry, man, I really am, but this is, like, an emergency. I’m not drunk.”
“Huh? What emergency?”
“I need you come over to discuss my case. There’s been, how do you suits say it, a development.”
“A development? I’m not your attorney. Call him, or your pops.”
“They can’t help. You’ve got intel. Information that can help me, you know what I mean?”
“No,” Sam said. “I don’t know what you mean. And I’m done with this. I don’t want to get involved.”
“Well, if you don’t help me now, I’m gonna get you involved.”
Sam paused for a few seconds before asking, “What do you mean, get me involved?”
“I mean, if you don’t show up at my house, like, today, I’m gonna tell my ‘pops,’ as you say, to get you on my case. I’ll beg, and Dad will listen. You know who and what Dad is. Would be a pain in the ass, yeah?”
“Yeah. Yeah, it would.”
“So, when can I expect you?”
After a deep sigh, Sam said, “I’ll stop by before work.”
“Okay, fine. That’ll do.”
The line went silent, and Ryder placed the phone back on the table to allow it to charge wirelessly. He walked to the couch, sat, and stared at the door to his bedroom. When it didn’t open, he relaxed at little and stared at the clock, each minute clicking away slower than the prior.
Sam arrived at 7:30 a.m. and Ryder rushed him through the door of the small, two-bedroom bungalow.
“Slow down,” Sam said as he straightened the grey, form-fitting jacket of his suit. “What’s this emergency?”
“Follow me,” Ryder said as he waved his arm towards the closed bedroom door. When the men reached the door, Ryder pointed at it and said, “Go in.”
Hesitating, Sam asked, “There’s not a dead body in there, is there?”
“What? No, dude, just go in. Stop being a candy-ass.”
“Fine, okay. But I’m warning you, I’m only here because you’re blackmailing me.”
“I just need you to tell me what you see, all right?”
Sam nodded, opened the door, and walked inside. Ryder waited for a scream, but none came; instead, Sam stepped out a few seconds later.
“There’s nothing in there,” Sam said.
Grabbing Sam’s shoulder, Ryder said, “I gotta tell you something.”
Sam lifted one eyebrow and asked, “Yeah? What?”
Ryder paused for a few seconds before saying, “I saw The Watcher last night.”
“What?” Sam said as he stepped back.
“It was in my room, over my bed. Creepy as hell.”
“The Watcher isn’t real. It’s a fairy-tale. No one has ever seen The Watcher except for the guilty, and I don’t believe that, either.”
“I mean…for instance, there was this couple in Kingwood. The husband was accused of plotting against Joseph Massino of the Bonanno family. Anyway, the guy said he saw The Watcher, but the wife couldn’t.”
“What happened to that guy, the husband?”
“He was killed the next day in a car accident. But it had nothing to do with The Watcher.”
“You don’t believe it exists?”
“I don’t believe in things I can’t see.”
“Whatever, man. Look, pretend it does exist. That there is a Watcher. What do you know about it? I mean, you worked for the government before Dad paid you the big bucks to join The Family. Didn’t you hear anything?”
Sam’s forehead furrowed as he thought. “It just all depends. Every story is different. The funny thing is, The Watcher only visits those accused of…specific kind of crimes.” Sam shook his head and continued, “Damn, Ryder. What the hell did you do?”
“They can’t stick me with anything.”
“Maybe. I wouldn’t leave the house until your next court date. Got it?”
Sam’s right, Ryder thought. Just need to ride this one out and not do anything crazy.
Ryder awoke to the sight of the piercing green eyes staring down at him. He thought he’d be safe in the living room! In shock, he shifted his body and fell off the couch, landing head-first on the wood floor.
The room swirled, and, for a moment, he assumed he was dreaming; but when his vision cleared, The Watcher was a couple feet away by the arm of the couch.
“Just leave me alone!” Ryder begged as he rubbed his forehead. “I didn’t do it!”
He got up, walked to the table, and glanced at the time on his phone; it was 12:13 a.m. Walking to the bedroom, he kept his eyes fixed on The Watcher; after stepping in, he closed and locked the door behind him. He lay on the bed which felt softer than it ever had before.
All he needed was sleep. Some good, restful slumber would cure all ills. The Watcher would be gone as soon as the court declared him not guilty, he was certain.
The next morning, he opened the white venetian blinds covering his living room windows; outside, he saw a car parked in front of his house. All black, the car blended in well with the night, so well that Ryder could not determine its make and model.
It was nondescript: black, four-door, body similar to an old Crown Vic. Inside, a figure sat still. The car did not appear turned on, and its dash light was off, so Ryder could not fully see who sat in the car; but if he had to guess, the person behind the wheel was wearing a black robe.
Night again. Swirls. Circles. Flickers of light.
The world blurred together before Ryder, creating new colors and shapes. Nothing stood still; everything vibrated. A tickle traveled in his throat from one side to the other of his bloated neck. Anything bright irritated his eyes. There was a delay whenever he tried to move. His heart punched his chest like a boxer hitting a weight bag.
But he was ready.
He sat on the seat of the toilet in the small guest bathroom. The spoon in his hand seemed heavier than it should. Below the spoon was a tin plate.
Steadying the spoon above the plate, he propped his free arm against his knee and rested his head in his hand. He was so tired that he had trouble falling asleep; his body was working too hard just to stay alive. But his body soon gave in, and he drifted off into drug-induced nirvana.
The spoon hit the plate with a loud clank, waking him. The Watcher stood but a few inches away in the space between the toilet and the bathtub.
Ryder did not hesitate—he stood, ran out the bathroom door, and slammed it behind him.
Nearby, he had positioned a console piano he had not played in months. He ran behind the piano and pushed; though the piano was not heavy, it took every ounce of his energy to push it in front of the bathroom door. After sliding it into place, he collapsed, his lungs barely able to take in air. But he still had a lot of work to do.
On the piano rested two containers of lighter fluid, which he used to douse the piano and the surrounding area. When the containers were empty, he walked towards the door. A bicycle lay on the floor. He opened the door, lifted the bike, and looked outside: He did not see a black car, and no one else was around. Maybe he had imagined the black car? It was certainly possible.
It’s time, he thought.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out his “lucky” silver Zippo shaped like a skull. Smiling, he tossed the zippo at the piano which erupted the moment the small flame touched the lighter fluid. The flame’s warmth tickled Ryder’s back as he jogged out the door carrying the bike; when he reached the sidewalk, he steadied the bike on the ground, hopped on, and pedaled with all his remaining energy. At first, his weakened muscles did little to propel him forward. But adrenaline kicked in, and for the first time in five nights, he was not tired. Instead, he felt like he was floating above the chaos he had caused, flying towards freedom.
After pedaling about two miles, he reached his destination. He had passed by this motel many times, never giving it a second thought. It never seemed to close, lack vacancy, or had any cars in front of it, making it perfect for his plans.
He rode up to the blue front door, got off his bike, and walked in. The lobby was dimly lit. Fat, multi-colored tiles covered the floors. Chipped, white paint covered the walls. And near two raggedy green couches, a man stood lurched over a counter wearing a white polo.
“Excuse me,” Ryder said as he walked in and towards the Motel employee. “I need a room.”
The man did not react. Ryder stepped right up to the counter and stared into the man’s green eyes.
In a deep, groggily voice, the man asked, “By the hour or for the night?”
“The night, maybe longer.”
“It’ll be eighty bucks,” the man said.
“Okay.” Ryder took out his bulky wallet from the interior pocket of his coat and pulled out one of the many crisp one-hundred dollar bills inside. He placed the money on the counter and said, “Keep the change.”
The man nodded and bent down. A couple second later, he handed Ryder a key.
Ryder was excited about the prospect of sleep. He nodded at the man, walked outside, and soon arrived at Room 3.
He unlocked the door and stepped in. The room was as he expected: sparse and tacky. Stains littered the carpet, and the air smelled vaguely of dried urine. A bright floral comforter lay over the bed, and he had never seen anything so beautiful.
He closed and locked the door, let go of his bike, and ran to the bed; he was asleep only moments after his head hit the firm pillow.
Ryder awoke to shouting and pounding. “This is the police, open the door now!”
He turned his head and stared into the piercing green eyes of The Watcher.
“We both know I did it,” Ryder said as the motel door burst open and four members of the SWAT team ran inside, guns drawn.
Jason Huebinger lives in Houston, Texas with his wife and dog. By day, Jason is an attorney specializing in labor and employment litigation. His novel, Fate’s Past, is a supernatural horror work published by Pandamoon Publishing.
Check out Jason's website HERE