Friends With The Monsters - Albany Walker

Chapter 1

Do you ever lie on your back, gazing up at the stars, wishing you were someone other than who you are? Yeah, me neither.

Night has fallen. It’s my favorite time of the day, when the evening is filled with endless possibilities. I drag the heavy curtain back and open my bedroom to the sky. Tracing my fingers over the mottled glass, I feel the cool air outside pressing in.

I peer out into the darkness and take a deep breath. The heavy, yellow glow of the moon is just beginning to peek out over the top of the tall pine trees in the distance, illuminating the miles between me and civilization. Who, if anyone, will visit me tonight? I brush my palm over the silk fabric covering my abdomen, acknowledging the ache building behind it. If I don’t get any company tonight, I’ll need to head into town tomorrow to hunt my own meal.

I make quick work of pulling back all of the curtains throughout the rest of the house, making sure to leave off all the lights as I go, since many of my friends prefer the shadows. I closed everything up early this morning—as I do every morning—to block the sun from entering my home.

In the kitchen, I light a few candles and carry them with me to the west parlor, where I begin most of my evenings.

A floorboard creaks, and I freeze. Anticipation makes my breath catch, but it’s just the settling of my old house, crooning its worn-out song.

Disappointed, I curl up in a large chair with my candle flickering on the table beside me, casting an eerie glimmer on the walls.

I smile wistfully, remembering the first time a Will-o’-the-wisp visited me. I couldn’t have been more than a few years old. I was lying awake in my crib, staring at the shine of a small nightlight my mother had placed in my room.

The first Will-o’-the-wisp was a deep purple, almost dark enough to fool my eyes into believing it was only the nightlight or my imagination creating the dancing ball of light.

But the presence that came with the Will-o’-the-wisp could never have concealed itself from me. Heat uncoiled in my stomach at the acceptance I felt from the tiny creature.

I still remember knowing, at such an early age, I wasn’t like my family. I always felt a gnawing hunger aching in my stomach, yet no matter how many bottles of milk or jars of food my mother tried to feed me, I could not eat.

A breeze stirs my long, pale hair, pulling me back to the present. I turn my head to see the source of the chilled air and find nothing but empty space behind me.

A forlorn sigh falls from my lips just as I feel a caress from a rough hand skate over my cheek.

I swallow, and the steady thrum of my heart picks up as I inhale. He’s here.

The scent hits me first. It doesn’t smell of roasted meats or sweet desserts, but my mouth waters nonetheless.

I can already taste the heady flavor of rage swirling into my center as I drag in a deep breath. A low, appreciative moan unfurls from my chest as the ache in my belly subsides.

“You must eat.” My eyes snap open at the demand. He’s never spoken to me before. I always know when he’s here, but he never allows me to see him.

I spin in my chair, eager to catch a glimpse of the monster that makes me feel full, sated.

Only his presence lingers. “Why won’t you stay and visit with me?” I sink back into the chair. My eyes are heavy. I rarely, if ever, sleep at night, but I’ve just had my first decent meal in what feels like weeks. I may have been pushing myself too long, but I wanted to see my savior, wanted to taste the sins he carries.

Sometimes, I think I feel him watching me, but it’s like he’s only a ghost of himself, like he’s not fully corporeal. Only peering in at me through a window or door, but not any window or door I can open.

“I wish you would stay,” I mumble. He’s not my only mysterious visitor. I have other companions who hide themselves from me, too, one of whom only comes when I truly am sleeping. He sneaks into my house, leaving me little trinkets to tell me he’s been here.

I feel another caress on my cheek. “Soon,” he vows, but my eyes are too heavy