Stephen Smith always left classes at four in the afternoon. He was twelve years old; his house was half a mile away. He agreed with her father to walk home. Mr. Smith acceded to the request of the boy. They lived in Bridgetown, a small town in Massachusetts where the only murder people was remembering happened fifty years ago. In that village everything was peace and kindness. Mr. Smith never thought his son was in danger. Stephen was walking back to his home because he was liking to cross the Downtown and there sees old houses built around the year one thousand seven hundred. It was the time when a large group of English settlers came to the zone. They were dismal houses in total decadence; the walls of wood of its frontages were eaten away by the oldness. Several facades were covered with ivy, and were impossible to distinguish the door. Stephen did not know if anyone lived in those houses. Some windows had no curtains and the teenager was forcing his eyes to see what was inside. This was impossible. These windows only were leading to unfathomable darkness. Stephen never planned to trespass the fence and enter in these houses. He was not afraid to do this, but Mr. Smith always advised him to respect the properties of others.
About five o’clock in the afternoon Stephen had satisfied his curiosity and he was continuing his walk. A few blocks away was Washington Park. It was a lonely place, with very old trees. It had trails for walkers, and wooden benches for people who liked to admire the beauty of nature. Stephen used to enter in this park at about five-fifteen in the afternoon. He never sat down to see the trees, or to had fun with the crazy run of the squirrels. He was looking for the bridge that gave rise to the name of the town: Bridgetown. According to the old people of the place, the bridge was built with solid red bricks, and served for the first inhabitants of the area to cross a river. Where was that river? Stephen wondered. His teachers told him that it had dried up a century long ago. The boy never believed them. He thought the bridge and the river still existed. The teenager fancied the best place to investigate was the large and wet Washington Park. For six months Stephen walked among the old trees, but he never found either the river or the bridge. He was coming to his house exactly at six o’clock in the afternoon. Mr. Smith was happy about his son’s good behavior.
This routine of Stephen changed one afternoon on September 21, 2017. As he passed through the Downtown stopped a little more than usual and saw closely a rusty wooden residence, with seven acutely peaked gables. It was a manor house in ruins and this one had some spots of moss in its roof and in its walls. The mansion was going becoming invisible as the fog was increasing. This house surely belonged to very rich someone, who probably already was dead. Which was the name of the owner of that property? Stephen wanted to know this.
He knew it on September 21, just when was beginning the autumn. For the first time someone opened the door of the enormous house and he walked two or three steps towards Stephen, but suddenly he stopped. Them he remained immobile. Stephen amazed of the abnormal tall of this man. The figure, probably human, would have approximately eight feet of stature. He or it was a very thin creature. The figure was dressing a gray suit. Stephen strove in seeing the features of this being´s face. The teenager could not distinguish anything. It was a white face totally. He had neither eyes, nor nose, nor lips, nor anything. Stephen thought that he was not managing to see the features of this being due to the fog that was growing minute after minute, as a clear announcement of the autumn arrival.
The figure walked to the fence that delimited the property, opened the door, went out into the street and stop in front of Stephen. The boy realized that the creature was something very similar to a man. “Surely he is a man, some disease turned it into a giant”, thought the teenager. “He is a man, a rare man, but he is a man”, the boy said to himself. Stephen couldn’t see neither nose nor eyes on that person’s face, but the student was so impressed by the height of the man that he did not think that a face without eyes was a very abnormal face. The man spoke to the student.
“Do you want to know the name of the owner of this house?”
It was a strange voice, seemed to come from a very distant place. The words sounded as an echo inside an immense Gothic cathedral. Stephen was frightening at first; however he fervently wished to know the owner’s name. The teenagers’ curiosity overcame his fear.
“Yes, I would like to know”
The man was late approximately thirty seconds in answering. This space of time was not sufficient in order that Stephen was realizing that his thoughts were known by that weird creature. The man spoke again.
“I am the owner of this house. My name is Slenderman”
Stephen did not know that to answer.
“I know that you look for the river and the old bridge, these are not in the Washington Park”
“Where are they?” the teenager asked.
“The river and the bridge are in the cellar of my house. I invite you to enter when you want”
At that moment Stephen realized that his thoughts were known by Slenderman. The fear came back. The teenager, without saying a word, left. Fear accompanied him all the way to home. This time Stephen has arrived at six-fifteen in the afternoon. Mr. Smith did not scold him, fifteen minutes of delay was a very short time.
Stephen avoided pass close to the house of the seven gables for one week. Nevertheless, the ninth day, Stephen already had forgotten the fear and his curiosity led him to Slenderman’s manor house. He stood in front of the old mansion, the door now was closed. Already it was a September 30. The autumn mist was growing rapidly.
The faint glow of the twilight barely allowed to see the shapes of things. Twenty minutes passed. Stephen was almost going to home. Then he I listen that a door was opened, footsteps sounded louder and louder. The boy heard that someone was opening another door, surely that of the fence that was leading to the street. Stephen did not see anybody. Nevertheless, he listened to Slenderman’s unmistakable voice
“Did you come to see the bridge and the river, Stephen?”
“Yes”, answered the teenager.
Stephen felt that a cold hand, excessively long fingers, very thin fingers, it was taking him by the forearm. In this moment student distinguished barely the Slenderman’s high figure. Only it was possible to see a gray shade due to the fog. The weird being led Stephen to the interior of the house.
In the mansion there was a strong smell of oldness and of decrepitude. Three candles were burning in a chandelier. The light was very weak. Stephen, in spite of the semidarkness, realized that it was in an enormous lounge. In this one there was multitude of old fashioned furniture in complete mess. The teenager now could see Slenderman better. The morbid creature wears as the previous time a gray
suit. Stephen thought that now if he might see the face of Slenderman, but this was impossible.
The boy only could see the back and the head of the evil being, where only a few strands of red hair grew on a pale skin full of ulcers. Slenderman took the candlestick, and continued dragging Stephen. The boy at that moment heard for the first time the unmistakable shriek of a rat.
“I’m afraid of rats”
“You have to go down to the cellar to get to know the river and the bridge,” Slenderman said.
The teenager and Slenderman came up to a great dark hole. The weird being brought the candles over to that cavity, Stephen saw the first steps of a stairs that was penetrating in the shadows. The rats screamed again. The boy noticed that now they were many, maybe fifteen or twenty rates screaming simultaneously.
“I am very afraid to the rats”
“It is not true. Actually what you wish is to know the river and the old bridge “, answered Slenderman and dragged Stephen stair down.
The teenager felt that the thin and longest fingers of the man now were much colder. Such it seemed that a few thin fibers of ice were pressing Stephen’s forearm. He wanted to flee in this moment. Slenderman pressed with most force Stephen’s forearm. The teenager thought that it would break his bone. The morbid creature had guessed the desires of the boy.
Stephen was very scared, he was trembling with fear and already he could not think. The boy saw the first rat in this moment. The rodent had an abnormal size; this was as big as a rabbit and this beast reeked like a rotten corpse. That animal had on the disgusting skin the same ulcers that were abounding in the Slenderman’s cranium. The monstrous rat had a fierce aspect and she one showed a long and bloody fangs. It was evident that the rodent has just eaten the flesh of an alive being.
Slenderman continued dragging Stephen down the stairs. The number of pestilent rats rose, the decaying dark flock coming out of a multitude of holes in the old brick walls. At least there were more than a hundred rats. The monsters approached Stephen with the obvious intention of biting him. The guide uttered an unknown word to the boy, and the rodents receded. At last, the evil creature and the boy arrived at the end of the stair. In front of them stretched a wide cellar with a stone floor. Stephen had lost consciousness of reality; he was totally paralyzed by terror.
Up to Slenderman and the teenager the rumor of a river came. Apparently the water stream was abundant and rapid. They not only were listening to the noise of the river, but also the fierce shout of hundreds of rats. The monstrous humanoid continued dragging Stephen; both arrived where the archaic bridge was beginning, from below the rumor of the river rose. The ghoul had not lied to the boy.
“You want to cross this bridge Stephen; it is what you wish in the deepest of your soul “.
The teenager did not answer, his thoughts ended. Only Slenderman’s words resounded inside Stephen’s head.
“You want to cross this bridge Stephen; it is what you wish in the deepest of your soul “.
The teenager walked towards ahead, he started crossing the bridge. Thousands of invisible rats screamed wildly. They were shrieks of very hungry animals, but it was impossible to see the rats. The beasts were at the end of the bridge, in the middle of an impenetrable darkness.
The malignant lost soul, with a candle in his hand, watched as Stephen slowly faded into the darkness. The rats roared with a supernatural and frightening force. In this moment the man without nose, without eyes, the monster without lips or eyebrows, extinguished the candle. The darkness became an uttermost pleasure for the ghoul.
Slenderman stayed over there, and felt before him the unutterable abyss between the world of matter and the world of spirit. He was filling from the great evil harmony before him, and in that instant to bridge of shadows transported him to an immaterial and bottomless ocean. There the ghoul dissolved in the great mystical musical concert. Slenderman listened to his favorite music, Stephen’s hideous cries of terror while thousands of rats devoured him. Little by little the screams of the teenager and the rats were hushed.
The ghoul immersed himself in an infinite silence.
In the same moment Mr. Smith was amusing himself seeing once more time the movie “The Silence of the Lambs”. The film ended. In the last scene Clarice Starling receives a telephone call from Dr. Hannibal Lecter. The cannibal assures to Starling that he is lurking the Dr. Chilton, and that very soon he will eat the practitioner. That is the end of the movie “The Silence of the Lambs”. Mr. Smith, as always, lamented that the scene in which Hannibal devours Chilton did not appear. He turned off the TV. In this moment he realized of that already it was eight o’clock of the night and that Stephen still did not get home.
Roger Vilar was born in Cuba, in 1968. Since 1993 he lives in México City. He is a writer and journalist. In Mexico he was included in the anthology “Homage to the Marquis de Sade”, published by the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, in 2000. Also in Mexico he has published the books The Dragon Age, (short stories, 1998). His novel Inhabitants of the Night won the award granted by the Mexican publisher De Otro Tipo in 2014. Roger Vilar’s latest novel A Dark Passion for Mom was released by De Otro Tipo in September 2016. Kingdom of Dragons was published in February 2017 by Ediciones Periféricas. The Editorial Planeta-Alvi released the book of Roger Vilar’s stories Witches in August, 2017 in Spain.