The Bizarrie of Monsieur Delancey

Do you ever wonder why children see the world so differently? Why can they be so enchanted by the simplest and most mundane of things?

I never bothered with things like this. Childhood was a thing of the past, and all its incredible sights had been replaced by logic and rationality.

All that changed after my visit to The Bizarrie of Monsieur Delancey.

I first heard about it in passing at a bus station. A group of students talked about a weird foreigner. The man had bought an old barn at the edge of town and was refurbishing it into some sort of attraction.

I couldn’t help but laugh a little. Why anyone would come here and set up shop was beyond me. Ours was a small town in the middle of nowhere with only a few thousand inhabitants.

Yet, the strange man’s appearance soon became the talk of the town. Most people were ridiculing him and laughing at him, some were showing open disdain and a select few were curious about him.

He hadn’t been in town longer than a week when he started posting fliers all over town.

It wasn’t much in terms of design and shoddy work at best.

“Want to rekindle your imagination?”

“Want to see fantastical and magnificent creatures from around the world?”

Those and other phrases covered the front of a flier. Above them all and written in bright letters, was the name of the attraction: The Bizarrie of Monsieur Delancey.

The back of the flier showed a man clad in a dark, faded mantle. He was standing in front of a painted, wide-open barn door. As I stared at it, I couldn’t tell what the man was supposed to be. A magician? A circus director? Something else? And what about this Bizarrie?

Either way, I didn’t care and so I threw the flier away, just like everyone else did. Well, almost everyone.

Some were more curious or had it out for the strange old man.

One of those was Arthur Miller, a local teenager, and troublemaker.

One weekend, shortly after the Bizarrie opened, he and his friends got drunk and Arthur decided to mess with the old man and wreck his shitty place, as he called it. Yet, when they arrived there, in the early morning hours, the man was waiting for them. He bid them to enter and to marvel at sights they wouldn’t believe. And so Arthur went in.

No one knows what happened. His friends had been waiting for him outside and after only half an hour he stumbled from the place before he ran home in a state of utter terror.

Rumors spread, but most of them were about Arthur. The kid used to call himself a ‘tough motherfucker’ who wasn’t afraid of anything or anyone. Yet, he ran from what everyone thought was nothing but a shitty haunted house.

Arthur changed after his visit. He was jerky, jumpy, his eyes darting here and there as if he was searching for or looking at something. Whenever someone asked him or teased him about his visit, he’d say nothing. He didn’t laugh, didn’t make excuses, and didn’t even lash out at those who ridiculed him.

Half a week after his visit, he walled himself off in his room, refusing to leave it.

This, however, only worked in Monsieur Delancey’s favor and more people began talking about The Bizarrie. And soon someone else visited the place.

She was the type who never moved on after her high school days. She was in her mid-forties now, still unmarried and perpetually lonely, latching on to any fun or excitement she could find. So, on a whim, she’d decided to find out what all the fuss was about.

Her experience must’ve differed from Arthur’s. The look of depression that had so marked her face was exchanged by one of bliss and sheer wonder. She didn’t react to people talking to her, didn’t answer questions, she just stumbled through town. She walked on and on and still on when night fell.

The next day, however, she didn’t show up at work, didn’t leave her home, and similarly to Arthur, walled herself off from the outside world.

This got people talking, of course. They grew weary of the place and hushed whispers about having to get rid of the damned place.

After what happened to Clint Milford, they weren’t just whispers anymore.

Clint is one of our town’s drunks. I guess every town has them. Still, he’s not a bad guy. Just a fifty-something-year-old guy that life wasn’t too kind to. Lost his job, his wife left and took the kids. From then on he spent most of his days drinking away his measly welfare money at the local bar.

I knew Clint from when I was a kid. He used to teach at my local middle school before his life went down the drain.

I see him every once in a while when I’m having a beer or two of my own. The day before he went, he was hanging with a group of younger people. Local busy boys who’ve got nothing better to do than to ridicule a broken man. Their topic that day was none other than the Bizarrie. At first, it was simple jokes, but before long they pressed old Clint to go.

At first, he was against it, but at the prospect of free alcohol, he finally stumbled for the door. I thought about stopping him from going. I wish I’d done it.

It was four hours after his visit to the Bizarrie that they found his battered body at the riverbank. Suicide, the authorities concluded, after someone reported seeing him jumping off a bridge.

The authorities, who’d been watching the place with disdain ever since Arthur’s visit, got involved. Monsieur Delancey was taken in for questioning and his Bizarrie was turned upside down.

Yet, they found nothing. It was a cheap old barn, divided into a multitude of different rooms, each featuring an assortment of cheap scares and equally cheap wonders of the world.

There were no hidden mysteries, no catch, and no danger at all.

One thing caught my interest, something the old man said during his questioning:

“It’s not what’s on display, it’s the imagination that does the trick.”

In the end, they had let him go but forced him to close the place down. After all, a man had died, and two other people had shut themselves off from the world. Our town, they concluded, didn’t need this sort of trouble.

Still, all of this spurred a plethora of new rumors and many went to the place to see it for themselves. Monsieur Delancey sent them all away. The exhibition was closed for good and he’d soon move on.

And that’s how I came in. I work for our local newspaper and eventually our boss wanted a story about the mysterious place and its enigmatic owner.

My curiosity about the place had grown like everyone else’s but what made me volunteer was to find out the truth about what had happened not only to Arthur and Clara but also to old Curt.

So that same day, I set out for the edge of town to pay Monsieur Delancey and his Bizarrie a visit.

When I arrived the old man was sitting on a chair next to the door, reading from an old, yellowed book. He looked up when he saw me walking towards him.

His face was old and wrinkled, the skin a map showing the passing of decades upon decades. Yet, his eyes didn’t seem old at all. They were of bright blue color and gleaming as brightly as the sky above us.

“Monsieur Delancey, I presume?”

“None other than that!”

“So, that’s it then,” I said more to myself than to him as I stared at the half-rotten barn behind him.

“Indeed it is.”

I walked up to the door, but them was quick to spread out his arm.

“Afraid I can’t let you in, young man, the place’s closed.”

“Well, I’m not a customer, I’m with the local paper, a journalist you could say.”

Monsieur Delancey’s eyes focused on me.

“A man of the pen, I see. And you’re here to write about the Bizarrie, I presume?”

“Yeah. So, how about you give me a tour? Of course, not a regular one, but I’d like to learn a thing or two about what you… do here.”

As I said the last thing, I couldn’t help but stare the man down. He didn’t seem to notice my disdain at all. Instead, his eyes darted left and right, almost comically, as if to see if someone else was around.

“Now how about this, you’re not a customer as you said, you’re here to write a story, right? After all the doors are closed, and you’re only here for a brief interview.”

I nodded quickly. “Yes, exactly!”

The old man rubbed his chin, in what I could tell was a studied gesture. Then he nodded at me.

“Well then, come on, Mister,” he started giving me an expectant look.

“Stevenson,” I answered.

“Well then, Mr. Stevenson, welcome to The Bizarrie of Monsieur Delancey!”

With that, he led me forward, not to the front door, but a smaller one, hidden at the side of the barn.

“They told me to keep the entrance shut well and good, but this here,” he said, grinning. “Ain’t no entrance.”

The man rummaged through a pocket in his giant mantle before he produced a key ring. There had to be a dozen keys on it, and I couldn’t help but wonder how heavy the damn thing must be.

With curious eyes, he went through the keys until he found the right one and unlocked the door.

We entered a small hallway divided up from the rest of the barn by a cheap, wooden wall barely high enough to keep you from looking over it.

“This here’s where I bring in all the specimens. Those magical creatures and wonders of the world we’re displaying here at the Bizarrie,” he said as he led me forward.

After a few meters, he stopped again in front of another door. I watched as he went through his keys once more. When the door finally sprang open, he invited me in with a gesture of grandeur.

“Well then, Mr. Stevenson, welcome to The Menagerie du Monde Magique, the very first part of the Bizarrie. Here you’ll find creatures from all around the world, mythological and fantastical, the likes you’ve never seen before!”

I had to fight the urge to laugh, not only at his acting but at what he was proposing. In front of me was nothing but a huge, dirty, rectangular room. Cages lined the walls on both sides, some visible, others covered by blanks. Each one had a sign above it that told visitors what sort of creature they were supposed to be staring at. They were all cheaply made, giving the impression of crude scribbles on cardboard.

I read through some and found one with ‘Cockatrice’ written on it. When Monsieur Delancey noticed me staring at it he walked up to my side.

“Ah, the Cockatrice, a most terrible creature. A single glance from its eyes is enough to kill you, hence we had to cover them up.”

A quick check on my phone told me what a cockatrice was supposed to be or look like. It’s essentially a mixture of a snake and a rooster.

I leaned forward and stared into the cage in front of me and almost burst out laughing.

What I saw was a rooster, a rooster with what I assumed to be a rubber tail. Its body was covered in plastic scales and his eyes, as Monsieur Delancey had said, were blindfolded.

“Interesting,” I brought out, not able to hide the little giggle that followed.

Monsieur Delancey smiled and waited for me to go on.

The next cage I stopped at was a bigger one with a crude sign that said ‘Unicorn’ above it. I already knew what was waiting for me.

“The Unicorn, one of the most beautiful creatures in the entire world. This specimen here was caught in the far-off regions of the Caucasus,” he began explaining. Instead of listening to his ramblings, I stared into the cage.

The Unicorn was what I’d expected. A white horse with a cheap plastic horn glued to its head.

“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me,” I mumbled to myself.

I continued on and stared at a few other cages. There was one with the sign Jackalope above it, containing a rabbit with a pair of cheap, plastic horns on its head. Another one was supposed to be a griffin. It was nothing but a cat glad in plastic wings and its face half-covered by a plastic beak. The poor thing stared at me with a miserable expression on its face.

“Do you ever take all that stuff off or do you keep them like this all day long? Didn’t you say the place was closed down, anyway?”

“What might you be referring to, Mr. Stevenson?”

“The costumes,” I started, “the poor cat looks miserable.”

Monsieur Delancey just smiled at my remark but chose not to answer. I made a mental note to include animal cruelty in the article.

I continued on, past other cages, but stopped in front of a tank that said ‘Mermaid.’

“The mermaid, a most prized possession. Unique to only the Bizarrie.”

As I peered inside, I saw a young woman sitting in waist-high water. She smiled at me seductively. I smiled back at her and my eyes wandered down. A cheap fish costume made of rubber hid all of her lower body.

“She’s sitting there all day?” I implored the old man.

“Well, where else would she be? She can’t survive out of the water, Mister Stevenson.”

This time I didn’t bother to hide my laughter. “All right, sure, whatever.”

I had seen enough of his Menagerie du Monde Magique and ignored the rest of the cages. Instead, I continued on to the end of the room where a row of doors awaited me.

“You sure put a lot of work into this,” I said with a nod at the door. “What’s behind them?”

“That, Mr. Stevenson, is a secret. You can only choose one of them.”

Yeah sure, I bet they all lead to the same room anyway, I thought shaking my head. To humor Monsieur Delancey, though, I pretend to reflect upon my choice. I walked up and down before I decided on the third one.

“All right, let’s go with this one.”

The old man stepped forward and took out his key ring once more. When he’d finally unlocked the door, he led me inside. We entered another corridor, this one more constricted than the ones before, leading us around various corners. When we’d made it to the end, he began tinkering with his keys once more. I sighed. By now, the entire ordeal annoyed me. I was sure the old man thought it was part of the mystery, but I found it ridiculous.

Finally, he pushed open the door and was about to go on another tirade about the mysteries that awaited me inside. Before he could as much as start, I pushed myself past him and stepped into the room. This one was smaller than the first one, much smaller.

“It seems your curiosity has overtaken you, Mr. Stevenson,” the old man said, laughing as he followed me.

“What we’ve got here in this room, are two creatures that couldn’t be more different,” he said with a low voice.

There were two cages in the room. One small, covered by a blanket, the other huge and hidden behind a curtain. I sighed at the prospect of seeing more animals dressed in plastic wings and cheap props.

He stepped up to the smaller one and pulled away the blanket. Inside, I saw a small humanoid creature, barely the size of my hand.

“What we’ve got here, Mr. Stevenson, is a chthonic, earth-dwelling spirit, one of the little people or what might you know them at, gnomes.”

I leaned forward and the little thing stared at me with wide eyes before its mouth opened and it squeaked at me in a voice I didn’t understand.

As it spoke I could almost hear the cracking of a small speaker hidden in its mouth. I saw its mechanical movements, could imagine the turning of cogs and gears as the small animatronic wobbled towards the front of the cage. When I focused on its face in the low light of the room, I was sure I saw stitches and seams.

“Very good, it looks almost real.”

Once more Monsieur Delancey said nothing and threw the blanket back over the cage. The little voice squeaked a few more times before it grew quiet.

“Be careful now, Mr. Stevenson, I can only present you this creature for a mere moment,” he said with a serious, foreboding expression on his face.

“Sure thing, show me,” I said.

He opened the curtain and for a moment I could hear the rattling of chains in its back. As I peeked inside, someone jumped forward. I cringed back in shock when I saw the terrible costume the man was wearing.

“Jesus Christ, you stupid asshole,” I yelled at the man and kicked against one of the bars of the cage. The man inside didn’t react, instead, he shuffled forward, mourning and grunting. When his eyes met mine, he began straining against the chains. Monsieur Delancey quickly closed the curtain again.

“A ghoul, Mister Stevenson, a rare specimen from the southern deserts of Arabia. It was found in the ruins of the once-prosperous city of-“

“Yeah, yeah, I get it, it’s a freaking zombie. Well, you scared me, all right. Is that what sent Arthur Miller running away screaming? Was this what drove old Clint to jump off the bridge?”

“Oh no, Mr. Stevenson, you have it all wrong. You’re the very first visitor to set foot into this room. There are many more things at the Bizarrie, many that no one’s seen yet.”

“Hah, all right. What do we do now? Do we go back and try one of the other rooms?”

“I’m afraid there’s only one room left for you, Mr. Stevenson. The last and final attraction of the Bizarrie.”

With that he stepped up to the wall at the end of the room and got out a single, golden key, and opened a door I hadn’t even noticed before.

This time there was no hallway. All that awaited me was a huge, dark room.

“What’s this now?” I asked, staring at the old man.

Unease washed over me as I stared into the darkness. Was there something… dangerous here?

“Don’t be alarmed, Mr. Stevenson, there’s but a single thing here.”

With that, a beam of light appeared in the room, shining on a small podium in its center.

My eyes wandered around, trying to see if there was anything else hidden in the darkness. I remembered the investigation though, they had found nothing dangerous. It had all been fake, I reminded myself.

Still apprehensive, I followed the old man, almost waiting for someone dressed up as another horrible creature to jump me. Yet, all was quiet, except for our footsteps, and I saw nothing but Monsieur Delancey and the small podium.

“This, Mr. Stevenson, is the most prized possession of the Bizarrie,” he said, pointing at a small vial resting on the podium.

I stared at it and then back at him, puzzled.

“And what’s that supposed to be? A magical drink? Some crazy drug? Look, if you’ve got some Ayahuasca shit here or something, I’m not interested in-“

“You’re not too far off, Mr. Stevenson,” he cut me off, “yet, you’ve still got it wrong. What we’ve got here is the water of the Fountain of Youth.”

This time the laughter burst from my mouth in unrepressed waves.

“All right, that’s a good one, the best one yet. You start off with all those Jackolups and Mermaids and Ghouls and now you’ve got some shitty water here spiced with God knows what. Yeah, this is all bullshit. I think I’ve seen enough of-“

“Why don’t you try it, Mr. Stevenson? This vial was prepared specifically for our last visitor. For you.”

Once more I laughed.

“What’s it going to do? Make me a little boy again? Add then years to my life?”

“Oh, you’re mistaken, Mr. Stevenson. You see, the legend of the Fountain is wrong in many ways. The water doesn’t have an effect on your body, but on your mind.”

I shook my head. So, I was right, it was drugs. Monsieur Delancey, though, went on to explain.

“Do you ever wonder, why children see the world so differently?”

Here he paused for a moment, waiting for me to interject something, but I was quiet, waiting for how this entire charade would play out.

“It’s their imagination. As children, our brains can see the world how it truly is. When we’re very young, we aren’t restricted by logic or rationality. No, children can see all the wonders of the world. When we grow older, this ability becomes dormant and is pushed aside by our needs to adapt, to understand, and to make sense of things. Yet, there are ways to reawaken it, to gain back the ability to see the world with the eyes of a child.”

“Let me guess,” I said laughing, “this water will do the trick, right?”

When I said this Monsieur Delancey grinned. It was the biggest grin I’d ever seen on anyone’s face.

“Indeed.”

“And let me guess, Arthur, Clara and even old Clint drank it.”

The old man didn’t answer; the grin on his face didn’t waver. Instead, he just stood there, staring at me expectantly.

I scoffed again and shook my head. Then, reluctantly, my eyes wandered to the small vial. For a moment it seemed to glister in all the colors of the rainbow, becoming a cascade of innumerable colors. Against my will, almost subconsciously, I reached out to touch it. When my fingers brushed against the glass, it began glowing faintly and the colors intensified, growing warmer and brighter.

I picked it up and stared at it with wondrous eyes.

“How are you doing this?” I asked, impressed for the first time.

“Well, Mr. Stevenson?”

I looked at him again before my eyes studied the vial again. It was barely a mouthful of water.

“Don’t you want to get back your imagination? Don’t you long for a world of wonder?

And as he said this, there was an almost supernatural pull, almost as if something in my brain was longing for it, as if it was reawakening.

For a moment, a memory popped back into my head. I was a child again, staring at the few trees behind our house. Yet, at the time, they’d seemed like a giant, grand forest to me. The small dirt track leading past them a road to adventure and mystery.

How big the world had seemed then, I thought, how exciting.

Without even knowing it, I’d popped open the vial and a second later I spilled the strange liquid into my mouth. For a moment I held it there, tasting it, but it was entirely tasteless.

Then I swallowed it.

And right at that moment, the surrounding darkness exploded into a kaleidoscope of colors. My eyes grew wide, my mind filled with images and visions. There was not just color here, there was more, feelings and impressions, ghosts, and shades. It was as if this room encompassed the entire world, a sea of beauty and imagination.

When I turned to Monsieur Delancey, he wasn’t an old man anymore. He was a mythical wizard, clad in a robe of liquid colors. His face was a mask of radiant, glowing beauty. I screamed when I saw him, backed away, and toppled over my legs.

“Now you see, Mr. Stevenson, for the first time you can truly see.”

“What the hell’s this? What did you do to me?” I brought out in a shaking voice.

“The Bizarrie of Monsieur Delancey, but now, you’re finally able to see it for what it really is!”

I was overwhelmed and had to close my eyes from all those radiant colors around me. I squinted, opened them again, but the ghastly, beautiful vison was still there and so was the radiant figure of Monsieur Delancey.

Drugs, it had to be drugs, I told myself as I turned towards the door. Freaking hell, why’d I drank it? Why the hell had I drank it?

“Thank you for your visit to the Bizarrie of Monsieur Delancey!” the radiant figure thundered from behind me.

I stumbled through the door and crashed right into the cage containing the small animatronic. It shook hard, the blanket fell aside, and once more the little thing began playing its squeaking sounds.

Yet, when I stared at it now, there was no hint of it being animatronic. There was no crackling speaker, no cogs or gears, no stitches on its face. As it rushed for the bars of the cage, there was no hint of its mechanical, tumbling movements.

Instead, the tiny figure moved as if it was real. Its tiny hands closed around the bars of the cage. It squeaked at me, an expression of misery on its face. When our eyes met, I knew this creature was alive. It was real.

I cringed back in terror, screaming, and stumbled away from the room, down the hallway, and into the Menagerie du Monde Magique.

I’d barely taken a single step when I froze. What had been nothing but cheap fakes and silly illusions before were now real. There was no doubt each, and every creature was real.

The mermaid was beautiful, the iridescent scales glimmering in the water. Coyly, giggling, she splashed a bit of water against the walls of the tank.

The griffin I’d seen before was bigger now, terrifying even. It hissed at me in a guttural mixture of bird and cat. For a moment it stretched itself and I could see its muscular wings spread out.

I bathed in the glow of the unicorn’s horn and stared into its endlessly beautiful, sad eyes.

The Cockatrice was less a cock and more a serpent now, a slithering terror with a scaly body, sprouting colorful feathers.

In a mixture of wonder, I stumbled from cage to cage, staring at the beasts from mythology.

I went back and force, trying to take in as much as I could of the fantastical sights all around me.

Eventually, the radiant figure of Monsieur Delancey entered the room.

“I’m afraid it’s time to leave Mr. Stevenson,” he said with a smile on his face.

“But,” I stared, about to protest, but his face had changed to a stern expression of seriousness.

“You’ll find other things to marvel at,” he said in a consolatory voice. “The Bizarrie has to move on, to a different place, to share the marvels of the world. But fear not, the world is visible to you again, visible in all its marvel and beauty.”

And with that, he slowly, but resolutely pushed me towards the small hallway and eventually outside.

The world that awaited me was a different place. It was ripe with colors, colors so bursting with life I couldn’t help but stare at everything with wide eyes.

When I looked at the sky, it was of a blue so full, so bright, I’d seen nothing like it. Birds flew past me, their feathers bright and beautiful.

Everything looked different, felt different.

As I walked back to town, I came upon other people. I almost grew angry when I saw them trudging on, eyes downcast, or right ahead at whatever destination they were going to. None of them looked at the beauty and wonder all around them.

I don’t know for how long I walked, for how long I stumbled through this magical place the world had become. Here and there, I noticed small, mysterious creatures. Strange animals that buried into the underbrush as I walked past them, and tiny people hurrying away when they saw me.

Sundown was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. It was as if the sky was aflame, alive with color. The golden light of the sun was like liquid gold that slowly cold down, first into orange and then a deep red as it swept over the horizon, an endless flood of dark crimson.

Finally, as the glowing ball of the sun vanished, the crimson color was replaced by the night sky. Yet, as I stared at it, I noticed for the first time how innumerable the stars were. It was almost as if the sky was filled with marbles of white, orange, and blue. I stared and stared and stared until someone stepped up to me.

“John, you all right?”

It was an acquaintance of mine, Mike Schmidt.

“You’ve been staring at the damned sky for what must’ve been a quarter of an hour. Saw you standing there, staring up when I went into the grocery store and now, you’re still here, doing the same damn thing.”

“Isn’t it beautiful, Mike?” I brought out, looking up again.

He, too, looked up for a moment before he turned back to me. “It’s the damned sky, what’s so beautiful about it?”

I opened my mouth to reply, but then I shook my head and walked away.

Even though my house was nearby, it still took me almost half an hour to get home.

Yet, as I walked in the dark, staring up at the night sky, I noticed… other things.

The darkness of the night seemed darker than usual. The shadows between the houses seemed a bit too jagged, a bit too distorted.

A few times I even thought I saw them move, stretching out from an alleyway before they retreated again. I shivered, and did the same thing I’d done as a kid, I told myself there was nothing there.

Yet, as an adult, the lie didn’t work so well anymore, wasn’t so easily believed. I knew that I couldn’t just close my eyes and will whatever I’d seen to go away. It’s because I knew, deep inside, that something was there.

And so, when I made it to my house, I looked over my shoulder once more.

What looked back at me was a creeping, shadowy figure. Long, black tendrils of purest darkness streamed from the small alleyway it was hiding in, greedily stretching out towards the buildings on either side of it. For a moment it stopped, and a pair of dark, red eyes came to rest on me.

I jerked around in terror, got out my keys, and with shivering, sweaty hands, unlocked the door and rushed inside.

As I stepped into my dark hallway, I knew I wasn’t alone. I saw the wallowing, moving darkness that washed through it. I noticed a multitude of small, glowing eyes staring at me.

In an instant, I hit the light switch and blasted the hallway in bright, burning light. The shadows retreated, crawled back to the furthest corners of the house where the light wouldn’t reach them.

I inhaled, exhaled, and stood there, shaking. Each room and each part of the house seemed to be filled with these shadowy creatures. They were lingering between furniture, hiding under the bed, and sitting atop shelves and wardrobes.

Only when I’d turned on every single light in the house did I feel safe, or at least safe enough.

There were still spots the light didn’t reach, and there I saw them crouched together, staring at me and watching my every move. I tried the childish trick again, telling myself I was alone. Yet knowledge is a powerful thing. As a kid, you can tell yourself you’re just seeing things, that it’s nothing but your imagination. But as a rational, logical adult, you can’t anymore. You know they are real.

I didn’t sleep that night, I couldn’t. I forced myself to stay awake until the sun dawned. Only then did I collapse on the bed.

When I awoke it was already late in the afternoon.

The moment I stared out the window, I almost screamed at the sight that awaited me. Then the memory of the day before returned. Terror became wonder, and I marveled at the fantastical sights and saturated colors, colors so bright it almost hurt to look at them.

Yet, even now, as I looked outside, I saw those other things. Terrible, misshapen creatures, hiding in dark corners and staring out from ghastly basement windows. They were there even during the day, waiting for the dark of the night when they could emerge.

And then something happened. As I stared at it in abject wonder, the eyes of a disgusting spidery creature focused on me. At first only for a moment before they trailed on, but then they jerked back, staring at me, probing me. In terror I watched as the thing pushed itself outward until it barely touched the sunlight, staring at me with wide, hungry eyes.

I realized what must’ve happened. It had noticed me. Not just my existence, but it had noticed that I could see it.

I jumped back and threw the curtains shut.

That day I ventured outside again. While I marveled at the beauty and all the mysterious wonders that awaited me, the more I saw of them too. The dark, hidden horrors of the world that had scared me as a kid. Those monsters under the bed, outside the window, and in our closets.

And all of them noticed me too, noticed that I saw them, and they grinned at me in a mixture of anger and anticipation. For they knew that I could see them, that I knew they were real.

I didn’t last under their oppressive eyes and before long I fled back to my home. I locked the door, turned on every single light, and retreated to my living room.

Yet, even as I sit here, even as I’m typing this, I knew they are there, and I know they are inching closer. I can see them behind the windows, vague shapes pushing against the glass. I can hear them under the couch, can see them in the dark corners of the room, and can almost feel their dark, shadowy tendrils reaching out for me.

They know I can see them and know that I understand what they are. As kids, we ignore them, pretend they aren’t real and so they move on, for they have no power over us. Yet, I, Arthur, Clara, and even old Clint, know they are indeed real.

For we are adults, we’re logical and rational beings. We know what’s real and what isn’t.

And those horrors, those horrors hiding in the shades, they don’t like it. They don’t want to be seen, don’t want to be acknowledged.

I know they are coming for me. I can hear them skittering around the room. I can hear their spidery legs, their shadowy tendrils.

It’s only a matter of time before they’ll get me. Just like they got old Clint, and just like they will get Arthur and Clara and everyone else who ever tasted that godforsaken water.

Be glad, you’ve lost your childish vision, be glad your imagination is gone. There’s wonder out there, yes, but beauty always comes with horror, with darkness, and it’s a darkness that will swallow you.