The Sound Monster, Cecilia Kennedy
CW: Some violence, blood
At the edge of the pier, we watch the shapes the ripples of water make along the horizon. We’re looking for smooth curves, jagged prickly edges, and long spiny forms. We’re scanning for hidden pictures in the setting sun, and any glint of light that might reveal the Sound Monster, here in this part of the Puget Sound. We want so badly to see this legendary thing—a sea spectacle of color—but also razor-sharp teeth and claws. The Sound Monster, they say, is a glowing multicolored creature with the head of a colossal starfish and the body of an oversized crab, which sometimes surfaces. They say, if you really want to see it, you should come to the pier when the sun is setting and look directly at the horizon. However, if you stare at the creature too long, they say, it might follow you home.
“Do you see anything?” I ask my husband Richard.
“No, but it’s nice to look out over the water.”
I’d expect the pier to be studded with onlookers, waiting to see the Sound Monster, but we’re the only ones here. Richard holds me as we watch the sun set, and something reaches up—something perpendicular to the horizon.
“Did you see that?” I ask.
“Vaguely—that long pointy thing, right?”
“Yes, and it kind of glistens in the sun, wouldn’t you say? It kind of looks like the ray of a giant starfish?”
“And on the backside, there’s something that looks like a smooth, rounded shell—almost a deep red?”
I look into Richard’s eyes, which turn green in the sun, and I smile. We believe we’ve seen what we’ve come here to see, simply because we kept watch and were rewarded.
On the way back to the car, I think I sense a presence just behind me, but I brush off the thought—the thought of wisps of things and something sharp. Tumbling sounds roll about in the back of the car on the ride home, but Richard and I ignore them. The Sound Monster is too big to fit into the back of the car, unless it can change shape. And, we’re not even sure if we actually saw it. We were simply satisfied with the idea of possibly seeing the perfect form, aligned just right with the horizon.
Every once in a while, when Richard and I are snuggled in blankets on the sofa, watching TV, we hear sounds coming from the attic partition above us, in our tiny house. When Richard pulls at the small door near the ceiling and the ladder unfolds, he goes up and inspects the space and sees nothing—just shadows and lumps of things we’ve stored in there. Lately, during the day, I’ve noticed a crack in the door when it is shut and sunlight sometimes pokes through, but also shadows. I tell myself that the crack aligns with a space in the roof that lets in sun and clouds and nothing more.
The sounds, though, are something else. Lately, we’ve heard a clicking and dragging sound that repeats: click, click, drag, drag, with a slap that follows. Sometimes, the walls shake.
There’s now a crack in the entire ceiling that spreads out from the tiny attic door. Sometimes I think I’m just imagining things—that the crack really isn’t a big deal, but I sense that it’s widening, and I can see larger shadows mixed in with patches of sunlight. The clicking and dragging sounds continue from time to time, but now there’s a scraping sound that follows. Something scrapes along in the attic—something hard and heavy.
“Do you think it followed us here?” I ask Richard. We avoid the living room now because the crack in the ceiling is widening.
“I’m not sure we even saw that thing for real. We just believed we did.”
“But what if that’s all it takes? Just a little desire—to see something we may not be meant to see?”
There is no place we can stand in our house, without seeing that crack in the ceiling. We both know we should probably fix it, but we don’t want to really know what we might find if we do. A steady pulse just hums in our veins, charged and waiting for something to happen.
Huddled in the kitchen, with our arms wrapped around each other, Richard and I see the plaster fall as the scraping sounds continue. They’re more frequent and now, they cause vibrations. The whole house shakes. When the first claw plunges through the plaster above our heads, Richard and I run for the door and open it wide, as if the horrid thing were nothing but a hornet, trapped inside of the car, and we rolled down the window to usher it out and let it be someone else’s problem. The shrieks pierce the quiet of the tree lined streets as the creature we most certainly saw, rushes past us, and we hold our breath. In flashes of sharp teeth and claws—all close calls—it scrabbles across the threshold. We unleash that beast into the neighborhood, our stomachs writhing with guilt as it bloodies victims along the way. We turn our heads, no longer wanting to see—and shut the door.
Cecilia Kennedy taught English and Spanish courses in Ohio before moving to Washington state and publishing short stories in various magazines and anthologies. The Places We Haunt is her first short story collection. You can find her DIY humor blog and other adventures/achievements here: (https://fixinleaksnleeksdiy.blog/).