"s 2015 Horror Write-off:

" Night Sky "

Submitted by Michael Behnke (

Alan liked looking at the stars. It always helped him feel less alone. It's not that he didn't like his childhood home, or couldn't relate to his family, it's just that rural life was rural life, and there just wasn't much to do out in the stix. Now that Alan was back from college, that feeling of loneliness was even more apparent. He had seen the other side. Dorm life was an ever churning mass of interactions and experiences. And girls. There was never a dull moment. It made the house where he grew up seem so much quieter, so empty. Town wasn't much better. Aside from Harold's Drugs and Lucille's (the local cowboy bar), nothing was open past 8pm. Not to mention it was a 5 mile drive from home. On Alan's first night back there had been some celebration. Mom, Pop, Maggie, and a few friends from town had thrown a welcome home party. Mom had even stayed up past 10:30. Now though, things were back to normal. His parents were in bed by 9, and Maggie was in her room either studying, or on the phone. Alan's parents refused to pay for internet – not that they were Luddites – but ISP's charge an arm and a leg for service in rural areas, and they just didn't really need it. Poor Maggie was always one search away from exceeding her data limit.

So at night Alan was alone. He remembered that when he was younger he used to climb onto the roof, and look at the stars. You could see all of them out there in the stix. He would sit there for hours, or at least until he got cold, and just reflect upon it. The vastness of it all spoke to Alan. It made him feel small, but not insignificant. It made him feel like there was a giant world out there, filled with people and adventures, all just waiting for him. It was comforting.

Remembering these things, Alan figured it might still work. He opened his bedroom window and shimmied up onto the roof. He was bigger now, and made sure not to put any real weight onto the storm drain. He also made sure to walk softly; the last thing he wanted was to wake up mom and have her discover her 23 year old son sitting on the roof in the middle of the night. She had never seen him do it before, and to be introduced to the behavior now might make her think college had cracked her son's brain. Alan silently made his was to his old spot, and sat down with his arms around his knees. He was surprised to find an old sun bleached beer can (undoubtedly pillaged from the refrigerator in the garage) half lodged under a shingle. That made Alan smile. At the time he had been so scared of getting caught, but thinking about it now, there was no way his father would have missed it. Obviously he wasn't very concerned over one beer. Alan let out a small chuckle and turned his attention upward.

The night sky was beautiful. He hadn't seen the universe like this in four years. There was so much light pollution on campus that a person would be lucky to see the moon, let alone any stars. This was different. The sky was naked, inviting his eyes to drink it in. Alan felt calmed as he marveled at the brilliance of it all. He looked at the moon. Tonight it was huge and radiant. He thought about all of the poems and songs that it had inspired throughout the millennia. He thought about the Apollo missions, and he thought about Dean Martin. He thought about humanity and all that it had achieved, and he was feeling very much at peace until something large and black appeared out of the night and cut across the face of the moon, disappearing into the inky darkness of its periphery. For a second, Alan just sat. He had been caught completely off guard. Slowly though, Alan began to feel a chill. He suddenly felt very exposed, and he decided that it was time to go back inside. He quietly made his was back to his window, climbed in, and closed it.

Alan played on his phone for a bit, but quickly remembered his data limit and put it down. He dug around through some old movies in his closet, looking for something that he could fall asleep to. He found a copy of The Drew Carey Show, season Three. He popped it in, set the sleep timer on his TV to sixty minutes, turned out the light, and got into bed. It didn't take long for him to drift off to sleep. He used to watch Drew Carey when he stayed at home sick from school, and much like the chicken soup his mom used to give him, it had become very comforting. The last thing he heard before dozing off was Mimi Bobeck extolling her famous insult to Drew: “Pig”.

Alan was awoken by loud 'thud' on his ceiling. He laid there, eyes wide, waiting. His heart beat rapidly. He held his breath. Silence. For what felt like an eternity, nothing happened. Alan laid still, and he waited. Then, the silence broke. Alan heard flapping, like a tarp in the wind. Like a tarp in the wind, but there was no tarp on the roof. The house might be old, but it was solid, and rain didn't leak in. No, this was something...else. Alan immediately remembered what he had seen earlier. The big black thing he saw streak across the sky. Then, Alan knew. Knew that the sound he was hearing was that of large, leathery wings. Alan's heart stopped. His blood turned to ice. Whatever he had seen up there had seen him, too, and now it was just above him. It had seen him, and it had come back.

Alan heard movement: scratching. He heard the beer can crunch as it was plucked free from its resting place under the shingle. A moment later he saw it sail down outside his window, moonlight playing off of it's bleached aluminum surface, and a moment after that he heard it hit the ground outside. Alan couldn't move. He wondered why the dog wasn't going bananas, but he remembered that Daisy was nearly 12 years old now, practically ancient for a dog of her size. She was lucky if she could hear the dinner bell. Alan thought about waking up Pop or Maggie, but he didn't dare move. He didn't want to risk alerting anything to his presence. Alan laid there, and didn't make a sound.

Alan was alone, except, he wasn't. He was not alone. Something was with him, just outside. Something had come down out of the night sky and joined him. Suddenly Alan wished that he was back at school. He had never wished for anything so much in his entire life. He closed his eyes, focused all his energy, pleaded internally, but when he opened his eyes, he was still at home. In his bed. Alone, but not alone.

After awhile, Alan heard the wings rustle again, this time louder. He heard scratching and a forceful creak as the creature took flight. He heard wings beat, and he heard them grow fainter and fainter. Then Alan heard something that would haunt his memories for the rest of his life. A single, drawn out, blood curdling shriek ripped through the stillness of the night, cutting Alan down to his very soul. With its echoes it took away any doubts of the creature's existence, and it shattered any semblance of safety Alan might have taken from its departure. Alan did not fall back asleep.

Alan never asked anyone else if they had heard anything that night. He didn't want to alarm anyone, nor did he want any of them to question his sanity. He simply suffered the nights alone, in silence. Shortly thereafter, Alan found a good job, and moved away to a big city. He always kept in touch, but he didn't visit often. When he did, he rarely stayed more than a day. Alan would never again climb up to the roof to look at the stars when he felt lonely. Of course he never really felt alone at night anymore, anyway.