's 2016 Horror Write-off:

The Adoption

Submitted by Joseph Romero


I saw it in the morning fog, and thought that I was surely dreaming. But then the sun came and burned it all away, and I saw that the thing was, indeed, right outside of the balcony. A limb of terrible substance jutted from the surface of its shell, and it was on that appendage which it was precariously balanced upon. I rubbed my eyes and prayed that I was merely sleeping, but when my vision returned, so had the thing.

I stood, transfixed, for what felt like minutes. There was no malice in its movements, no jittery adjustments to its balance, only a sense of authority and purpose. I had hoped that at some point, some neighbor would walk down the way, and diffuse this situation, but there was not a single bystander, not even some errant cat to impotently mewl at something so alien. My room was deathly quiet, and that silence made its heaven rending voice even more sickening:


It had no lips, no protrusions which could have possibly produced such an articulate sound, yet it spoke, and I believe it spoke to me alone, for there was no barking or terrified screams from the dogs and neighbors. I wish that I had at least stammered, so that I may have delayed its next utterance, but I was too dumbfounded to act.


I am thankful that I am not a parent, for I imagine that sort of ominous statement is the kind that keeps mothers up in the middle of the night. I rose slowly from my bed, and slid the door open to address it. My body immediately buckled at the unexpected chill and impulsively grabbed at my arms. I knew not how to speak to it, but still, I stammered into the air, and my words must have had effect, for it shivered, and continued to bellow:


What stilted, demanding language was this? What absurd cocktail of medications had brought me here? I would be more comfortable if I was able to say this was the concerted effort of several chemicals vying for control of my brain, but no, here I was, sober, terrified of the most alien moment of my life. I wish that I could tell you I had spoken articulately, but I distinctly remember what I asked it. I asked it "What?". Nothing insightful, nothing thoughtful, just "What?".


The outside was still, and as a result, every ounce of my attention was trained on my visitor, but even with such focus, I was still unable to fathom its demands. Were they even demands? The mounting panic would not serve me well. I needed to compose myself, and somehow, in that terrible moment, I found clarity.

I asked it what it was, and I was met with absolute silence. I asked what it wanted, and I watched as a dribbling stream of effluent belched out of some orifice. There was a sound not unlike the breaking of stale bread, and with that, the entirety of the creature erupted from its shell.

I looked at it as it emerged, and to this day, I can easily count on my fingers the times my gaze has lingered on it again for too long. It hovered high above the ground, like some terrible hummingbird, and now the soundtrack of my very existence is met by the endless pulse of its beating wings. It is a constant reminder of what follows me now. Most of the time, I am careful enough to avoid catching a glimpse of it, but on the rare occasions where I whip my head far too quickly, I see it again: I see the calcified mass of fingertips, crawling over each other, as flakes of ethereal dandruff fly away into the breeze.

If I had a stronger stomach, I could see myself gazing at the thing with pleasure. There is a certain hypnotic quality to it, I must admit. Still, I find the entirety of it to be far too repulsive to look at for even the briefest period of time.

As I averted my eyes, it spoke once more, the last time it would speak for years:


With that utterance, I felt the rest of the word shudder to life. There was the gentle hum of my home, and the distant chatter of life once more. I would have been more comforted if someone had screamed out in terror though, at least to affirm what was happening to me. Yet, there my neighbor was, tiredly walking her dogs, directly underneath the visitor. She paid it no heed, and the more I waited on my balcony, the more I realized that I was the only one aware of its presence. I stepped backward, and closed the balcony door, and went to the bathroom, in hopes that medication would make the thing fade away into distant memory.

It has been three years now, and it is very clear that it is not dispelled so easily.

It follows me everywhere, at a snail's pace. There were many times where I would drive for hours, for days, in a desperate attempt to escape it. I would have a few hours of blissful freedom, but it would always find me. I would startle awake in the night, suddenly aware of the deep vibration of its wings, and gaze out the window, only to catch a glimpse of its terrible surface once more.

I wish that I could give you a satisfying answer to this conundrum. Some sort of resolution to this happening, but I fear that I am still in the midpoint of an ongoing story. There is no explanation of this thing which has decided to shadow me, and there is certainly no reasoning for the peculiar way it has improved my life; Imperceptibly. It has tinkered with the fabric of my reality in silence, and I do not know whether I should thank it, or if I should merely curl up and submit fully.

My life so far could be called a meager success, but I believe it may be less of my life, and more of my visitor's. I find myself driven to things I would have never done before: Deep breaths, quiet moments of meditation; I am not the man I was three years ago. Every last skin cell of him has floated away. I am a new man. I am its son, and a new day dawns.

I guide others now, in their darkest moments, when no one else reaches out to them. My guardian angel has enough room in its caliginous depths for everyone to be healed. Its love is boundless, and unconditional. There is a deep and burning desire in me to introduce the world to what infinite love feels like, and at last, I have a path to liberating the world:

I will adopt someone, just as Father did for me.