Brian J. Smith is the author of Dark Avenues, The Tuckers, 1342 Lindley Road, Consuming Darkness, Abbie’s Wrath, Bad Allergies and the upcoming Dead River. He can be found on Facebook under Brian Smith, Twitter under BrianJS913 and on Instagram under horrorauthor9.


by Brian J. Smith


It was December of 1986 when my sister Millie and I met Him.

Millie was sitting in the passenger seat of my gray Dodge pickup, yawning as loud as she could. It was ten minutes to eleven and we were on our way to Dad’s house to spend the entire week of Christmas with him and his girlfriend (a pear-shaped crone with blue beehive hair named Lois).

We’d picked the damnest time, especially since the winters in Ohio were just as bad as they could get.

After she finished yawning, Millie asked, “How long before we get there?”

“Another five miles.”

In the neon green light glowing from the dashboard, I saw a weary expression flood her face. She sighed and glanced at the passenger window.

I motioned toward the wrinkled white paper bag sitting on the floorboard by her feet. “Are you hungry? Eat something.”

“I’m okay, Miles,” she said. “I’ve already had three of those candy bars and a can of Coke.”

“Your body’s just crashing.”


“Sugar crash,” I said. “You used up all of that energy talking to Calvin on the phone and now you don’t have any more left.”

“I don’t need a whole lot of sugar to talk to my boyfriend.”

“Could’ve fooled me. You were on the phone for so long I thought it was going to catch fire.”

She grinned.

“How is he doing by the way?” I asked.

“He’s good. But it’s not easy dating a man your father never wants to meet no matter how hard you try.”

I caught the look of defeat on her face and patted her shoulder with my free hand. Millie had always been a trooper ever since Mom died five years ago. She never let it stop her from becoming a schoolteacher even after her first husband died and left her alone before she met Calvin. After my college football dreams were as shattered as my right knee, I graduated high school and became an English professor for a college in the Midwest.

I wasn’t married so I wondered if I would have to grieve over Mom’s death alone. Millie made sure I never did that and she never forgot to call twice a week. Even when we were kids, we always looked out for each other.

“Dad will come around eventually, Sis,” I said. “I believe it.”

I put my other hand back onto the steering wheel and flicked my gaze from her and back onto the road ahead. The falling snow swirled through the glare of headlights, spun in the cold nasty air in fast tight funnels and iced the gnarled gray oaks and tall shaggy pines along the road; it drifted through the dull pale glare of the spaced-out street lamps. A thin ribbon of wet-gray slush lay like a spinal cord across the two double yellow lines running across the middle of the road.

Millie leaned over in her seat and turned on the radio. Bing Crosby came on, dreaming about a white Christmas. She sighed, killed it and slumped back in her seat.

I glanced away from the road and reached over for the tall white Styrofoam cup sitting in the middle console and laughed. She brushed a long strand of blonde hair from her right eye and snickered.

“I’ve heard enough Christmas music.” Then suddenly she shouted, “Look out!”

I flinched, jerked my hand away from the middle console and flicked my gaze back onto the road. I gripped the wheel in both hands until my knuckles turned white and kicked the brake. My back wheels spun, sending the truck into a fishtailing frenzy.

I straightened it and slid to a halt behind a dark green Chevy Tahoe parked on the right shoulder of the road. Its rear end was crusted with fallen snow and jutted across the road. My truck’s headlights glinted in the snow, casting odd shadows across the road and along the Tahoe’s rear door and back quarter panels.

I unpeeled my hands from the steering wheel and took two deep breaths to slow my beating heart. I flexed my hands until the blood rushed back into my fingers. Trickles of sweat broke out across my brow and slid down my face.

I glanced away from the Tahoe and over to Millie. She pressed the edge of her right hand against her right eye and winced.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, no thanks to you.” She said. “I bounced my head off the damn window.”

I held up two fingers and asked her the obvious. She told me and nodded.

I flashed a wide sarcastic grin at her. She glanced at me sideways and returned it. “You’re fine,” I told  her. “I don’t see a lump or anything so you might’ve popped your horns back into your head.”

We unsnapped our seatbelts and sat up in our seats. “I assume this person doesn’t know how to park their car like normal people,” she said.

“We’ll go have a talk with him and get him to move it.” I said. “You know what? You stay here. I’ll go have a talk with him instead. You stay in here and keep warm.”

I reached across Millie’s lap, popped open the glovebox, fished my thin black Maglite from a stack of papers sitting inside and slipped my bright orange sock cap down over my head. After I flipped on my hazard lights, we climbed out. The cold December wind tore at my cheeks, stirred my gray Georgetown hoodie and grazed its icy-cold fingers down the back of my neck.

I strode around to the front of the Tahoe, my boots crunching against the fallen snow, and stopped. Although the windows were rolled up, I still shined the flashlight into the front cab. A tall can of Budweiser and a can of Coke sat open inside of the middle console; a Reece’s Pieces wrapper sat crumpled on the passenger seat.

I killed the flashlight and traveled around to the front bumper when a loud celebratory shout exploded inside of the forest. I flinched, spun around and peered into the trees; a faint orange light winked in the distance and died.

Millie must have heard it too, because the next thing I knew, she was standing right beside me on the snow.

“Great,” she said. “We almost rear-ended a bunch of drunk rednecks.”

“I thought I told you to stay in the car.”

“You’re my brother, not my father.”

Ignoring that, I said, “I’m sure they’re not too drunk to move this jalopy. If they are, one of us can move it for them.”

“There’s only one way to find out if they’d let us.”

I grabbed her left shoulder. “You’re not going with me.”

“Why can’t I?” Her voice had an almost child-like stubbornness to it.

“You were ready to knock some heads around a few minutes ago.” I said. “We need to be calm and mature about this.”

“That was a few minutes ago.” She said. “I won’t say anything. I promise.”

“You’ll let me do all of the talking, right?”

She nodded. She pinched her fingers together and drew them across her lips.

“If you so much as say one word,” I said. “You’re driving next, no matter how bad the weather is—got it?”

She nodded again. I flipped on my flashlight and motioned for her to follow me.

Our boots crunching against the icy white grass, we hiked into the forest. We brushed at the stray tree branches grasping at our clothes and made our way down a narrow dirt trail winding through the forest. Fallen twigs, frail leaves and pine cones crushed under our footsteps; thin plumes of warm air drifted across our faces and dissipated in the cold air.

We sidestepped and grasped back at the thickest tree branch we could find to keep from sliding. We arrived at the middle of the hill when the pleasing smell of wood smoke, pine sap and a rich coppery odor filled our nostrils.

“Jesus Christ, it’s so cold,” she said. “I’m gonna get frostbite before we get there.”

“I’m sure this won’t take too long,” I said. “Once we tell them what’s going on, I’m sure they’ll move their car so we can keep going.”

We came out of the trees to find a large dirt clearing sitting twenty yards away from the edge of a river. The sound of water rushing over and around wet brown rocks hissed in my ears. I raised my flashlight and swept it across the clearing, tossing odd shadows across the snowy-green forest.

A green-striped white tent was spread out across the far right corner like a spent parachute. Two metal folding chairs, a red and white Igloo cooler and an old card table were lying on their sides among a mix of plastic cutlery, paper plates and Bicycle cards strewn across the ground. A small campfire sat extinguished in the middle of the clearing, surrounded by a ring of large soot-covered stones, spewing thin white tails of smoke into the cold bitter wind; tiny orange coals glinted in the impenetrable darkness.

I caught something out of the corner of my right eye and swung the flashlight at it. We both gasped as one. Millie clutched my right sleeve and pressed her fingertips into my forearm.

A tall, pudgy man was lying beside the deflated tent, his round, pale face and large head craned up at the pitch black sky. His throat had been torn out, leaving a gaping red hole behind. Sporadic bibs of dried blood dotted his face and caked the front of his bright orange vest and bright red tee-shirt; a large wet stain had spread across his crotch.

There was nothing celebratory about that shouting we’d heard a few minutes ago. Instead, it was a cry for help that wasn’t going to come.

“Oh my god, is he dead?” Millie almost screamed. “Is he—”

A loud slurping sound cut Millie off at mid-sentence. My hand tightened around the flashlight as I swung it over to the opposite end of the clearing. Millie stepped out from behind me, her face creasing with stark-white terror.

An icy chill traveled down my spine, rooting my feet to the frozen dirt. A lump grew inside of my throat. My heart thudded; my cheeks melted the snowflakes falling on my face.

A tall hulking figure covered in dark scaly skin knelt over the edge of the clearing, cradling a pale motionless corpse inside of its thick, reptilian hands. Long black tentacles extended out from its sides, rose three feet above its square-jawed face and wriggled at the air. Its stubby alligator feet and thighs had trapped the corpse in place as its feet planted odd footprints into the snow.

I’d heard all of the stories but I never believed them. I thought they were just something parents and older kids told their young ones to get them to go to bed or follow the rules. I thought he was nothing more than the figment of every drunk camper or sleepy-eyed tourists’ imagination. He was every blur in the background of every photo taken by every small-town American during summer vacation.

Big Monster. Unlike Loch Ness and Big Foot, he didn’t sell tee-shirts, travel mugs or any other touristy items. He was just as dark and menacing as everyone claimed he was.

It buried its snout deep into the corpse’s thick fleshy midsection, gobbled thick chunks of soft red pulp into its gullet and filled our ears with the sound of torn wet flesh. The corpse jostled with each bite, its limp motionless arms twitching as if roused from a deep sleep. The wind howled between the trees, tossing Millie’s pineapple-blonde hair across the crowns of her shoulders.

The corpse’s head whipped forward, resting its chin on the creatures shoulder and gazed at us with bright, death-glazed eyes. The dead man looked to be in his mid-teens, old enough to go camping but too young to die. Large bibs of blood caked the front of his baggy blue sweater and coated the left side of his neck.

My stomach churned, filling the back of my throat with a sharp acidic aftertaste. A strangled  groan burst from Millie’s cracked, lopsided lips and echoed across the salt and pepper forest. Big Monster must heard her because it paused in mid consumption, withdrew his snout from the boy’s half-gnawed corpse and sighed.

The creature craned its head toward the sky, sniffed at the snowflakes swirling through the cold bitter wind and cocked its head over its right shoulder. It dropped the teen’s mangled corpse onto the snow like a stack of unwanted mail and spun around on its stubby scaly feet. Its bright yellow eyes bore down on us as the right corner of its lip drew back, revealing two rows of sharp pinkish teeth set inside rotten black gums.

“Run!” I screamed at my sister. She stood, unmoving; her face crumpled together in fear, and her wide, horror-struck eyes almost budged in their sockets. “Millie!” I screamed at her again. “We have to run!”

My heart thudding, I spun around and peered across the clearing at the monster. It flexed its black-taloned fingers and pointed the claws in our direction.

I snatched a quick breath, threw my left arm around Millie’s narrow waist and lifted her off her feet. Something whipped across the cold piercing air, cleaved through the tumbling snow and flew over our heads in a whistling arc. The monster had thrown something at us! I tightened my grip around the flashlight and tried to move as fast as I could with the burden of a grown woman in my arms.

I intended to carry her back to our car, but she was dead weight in my arms. I stumbled and dropped her with a thud, yanking my left arm in the process. I toppled over and fell right beside her. Pain snapped my eyes open, burst across every corner of my body and squeezed the air from my lungs.

I sat up on my elbows and peered over at Millie with my flashlight when something caught the corner of my right eye. A tentacle rose out of the night, its tip curled like a boomerang, and dove straight toward us. How long was the monster’s reach? It seemed impossible for it to extend all the way to find us. I pushed Millie away with both hands and sent her rolling away from me.

I curled myself into a ball and rolled onto my right hip. The tentacle struck the ground with a massive, thunderous slap. Suddenly it slid away, dragging crushed leaves and twigs behind. The flashlight prodded my gut, its harsh white glare probing at the pitiless dark trees behind me.

Snowflakes began to whirl in the sharp, frigid air around my face. I rose up on my left knee, clenched the flashlight in my right hand and finally stood up. I reached for my sister.

Millie was slowly rising up on her knees. She glanced at me through the thin curtain of blonde hair falling across her eyes and mumbled something I couldn’t hear over the roar of the wind that had just started blowing.

I felt something wrap around my legs and then jerked them out from underneath me. My body struck the ground, jarring both my senses and my jaws. Needles of pain prodded my gums and sent shockwaves across my hips. Pinpricks of light flooding my vision. I winced, rubbed at my eyes until my vision became clear and I could finally look down at my legs.

A long, black tentacle squeezed my knee cap and began dragging me across the clearing. The precious flashlight slipped from my hand. My throat strangled with fear; I clawed at the ground with both hands to grasp anything I could to stop me from getting any closer to the monster. Pain sliced up my bad leg, pulsating against the shattered knee I’d managed to take such good care of.

A second tentacle writhed in the air above my head, waiting for the opportunity to wrap around my throat and end my thirty-plus years on this planet. And then I could see it. The monster’s bright yellow teeth bore deep into my soul as an evil wicked grin spread across his face.

Hot tears welled in the corner of my left eye when something flew through the air. I glanced up and saw the red and white Igloo cooler fly over my head and strike the creature’s big barrel chest. He jerked his head back, released the tentacle from around my leg and gave a loud snake-like hiss.

“Let go of him, you bastard!”

Oh my god, I have never felt so grateful to have a sister! Somehow she had managed to overcome her frozen fear. All our lives, she had never let me go through bad things alone. She was still by my side.

I rolled onto my stomach and saw Millie marching toward the monster. Her lips tight with anger, she grabbed a large rock.

When I scrambled to my feet, I ignored the pain throbbing against my knee and hurried over to the where I had dropped the flashlight. I picked it up and shined the light directly into the monster’s eyes.

The thing’s tentacles were writhing in the air high above his head. I watched as Millie threw another big rock at Big Monster. It was time to help her…two against one.

I grabbed the biggest rock I could find and launched it. It connected with the bridge of the monster’s nose and I heard the crack of broken bones. The creature grunted, jerked its head to one side and threw out a tentacle. It missed me and whipped at the thick cluster of trees flanking the left side of the river, sending thick leafy branches falling toward the ground.

I realized the creature had missed me because it could no longer see. Its eyes were caved in by the last rock I threw. The monster bellowed in pain, and pulled in its tentacles. Then Big Monster ran blindly into the forest toward the river.

It hit the river bed and stumbled into the water, sending a geyser of wet into the sharp frigid air. The monster sank into the cold rushing water and bobbed up and down as the rapids carried him away. It uttered a shrieking protest that sent a fresh trail of shivers down my spine as it raked at the sky.

My leg throbbing with pain, I shined the flashlight at Millie. She wrapped me up in a tight hug. She buried her face into the front of my hoodie and sobbed, her cries muffled by the wind.

She pulled her face away and wiped the tears from her eyes with the back of her hand. I put my arm around the back of her neck and led her away from the bubbling river bed that just carried off The Boogeyman.

“But what about our truck?” Millie asked. “We can’t get past that Chevy Tahoe blocking the road.”

“We’ll turn around and spend Christmas with Calvin.”