VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Jim Graves

THE THING UNDER HENRY PARKER’S PORCH

Walker’s Bend was a small town. Nothing exciting ever happened there, until Henry Parker got killed by that thing living under his porch. That was fifteen years ago. There have been a few strange happenings since then, including me seeing the thing that killed him; not when it happened, but a few weeks later. It was a sight to behold.

No one had actually seen the thing under Henry’s porch until I saw it that night, and possibly only one other person since, that I know of. Hell, nobody even knew it was under there. But they said poor old Henry’s body was torn to shreds and there was blood everywhere. Everybody figured it was probably a mad dog or a bear, but I can tell you it wasn’t either one. I’ve never been one to believe in monsters and such, but I can’t really think of any other word – other than monster – to describe the thing I saw sitting on Henry’s front porch.

It was a dare that led me up there that night. I was thirteen years old, and me and a few others were out back of the Stop-n-Shop, sharing a bottle of Sloe gin we got from Benny Finch’s older brother. Benny was the one who dared me.

“Bet you won’t sit on dead Henry’s front porch for ten minutes,” Benny said.

Amy Jensen smiled, looking at me with her Sloe gin buzzed blue eyes, “Go on, Ronnie, show

him you ain’t chicken.”

I took a drink from the bottle, handing it to Amy. Damn, she was pretty. “I’ll stay longer than ten.” And with that, I walked on up to dead Henry’s house. I’m sure some of my courage came from all that alcohol, and Amy Jensen’s smile may have had a little something to do with it.

            Henry Parker had lived alone, and he didn’t have any family, so his house stood empty after his death while the State was trying to figure out what to do with it.

It was one of only three home son Stone Creek Road. The other two were farms, so there was a bit of distance between the homes. It made for a long walk late at night. At least it was a clear night with a good moon.

It was going on ten o’clock when I got within sight of dead Henry’s place. I didn’t see the thing at first, but I did hear a knocking sound, so I stepped off the side of the road and crouched down behind a tree. That’s when I saw it sitting there on the porch. Its legs – at least I think they were legs, it was hard to tell – were hanging off the edge of the porch, swinging back and forth like it didn’t have a care in the world. It was banging its head against the porch rail.

This thing didn’t look like you or me. It looked like its skin was turned inside out. I know it was dark, but with the moonlight, I swear I could see the blood running through its veins.  It was short, no more than four feet tall at most, but it looked downright mean. It had a head kind of like a deformed goat but with long claws like a big cat or something. I ain’t gonna lie, it scared the shit out of me. I was hugging the backside of that tree so tight I was starting to grow bark.

The thing finally stopped bumping its head against the rail and slid down off the porch, its claws digging into the wooden railing. It didn’t move like anything I’d ever seen. I thought it was going down on all fours, but it started walking all bent over. I still don’t know to this day if it had four legs or two arms and two legs. For a minute, I thought it had seen me and was coming after me, but then it turned around and started pacing back and forth like it was thinking about something. That’s when it started howling, or maybe it was screaming, I don’t know. But I do know it sent chills down my spine. When it finally stopped, it dropped down and reached under the edge of the porch, dragging out what looked like a small child. I was ready to turn and run until I realized it wasn’t a child, but a doll, and it was cradling it in its arms. The way that thing was carrying on, you would’ve thought the doll was real. It was like a mother caring for its young.

I knew then that I wasn’t going up on the porch. It’s not that I was backing out of the dare, it’s just that the situation had changed. I was only thirteen, but I knew enough about animals – and I guess even monsters would be considered animals – to know you didn’t mess with one and its

young. I started to back away slowly, trying to use the tree for cover. I was about three steps back when a small branch underfoot caused a very loud snap. I froze. The thing quickly turned its head in my direction.

Everything came to a stop; you couldn’t even hear a cricket. I was sure if I moved, that thing would see me. It tilted its head, listening. It was strange how it looked like a monster but acted almost human in some ways. It slowly turned around in a circle, raising its head and sniffing the air. I thought I was a goner, but then it turned its attention back to the doll in its arms. I waited until it started stroking that doll’s head again, and then I turned to leave. I had no sooner taken my first step when I heard it screaming again. I looked back just in time to see it drop the doll and start running in my direction, this time it was down on all fours. I headed back up that road faster than I had ever moved in my life, hearing that thing behind me, snorting and growling. I could feel all that Sloe gin working on my stomach as I ran, but there was no time to slow down. I stumbled as my foot came down in a pothole, causing me to lose some of my lead. The thing was gaining on me and I was beginning to think I’d never see Amy Jensen’s smile again.

Just when I thought it had me, I looked back and saw it come skidding to a stop. Right there in the middle of Stone Creek Road, that thing started walking upright again, round and round, snorting and growling.  I finally stopped running and turned to face the thing. I was feeling dizzy and sick to my stomach, on top of being scared half to death. It lunged at me a couple of times and I damn near fell down when I jumped back, but it wouldn’t come any closer. The nearest house still wasn’t in sight, but I could see the edge of their field.

I don’t know why it didn’t come any closer to me and I don’t know what made it turn around and go back. All I do know is that was the first and only time I saw the thing, and to this day, I still don’t have any idea what it was. Nobody ever believed me when I told them what I saw. Benny Finch just laughed and called me chicken. Amy never said anything, she just smiled and gave me a disappointed look.

There were a few stories after that, about people finding dead animals out at the end of Stone

Creek Road and according to the stories, it looked like something had made a meal of them. They finally tore down Henry Parker’s house and auctioned off the land. The demolition crew found what they called, ‘some kind of skeleton, about the size of a small dog’, underneath the front porch, in what looked like some wild animal’s den.

That was fifteen years ago, and I can still remember that damn things like it was yesterday. The one other person that I think may have seen it was Benny Finch. Amy Finch (formerly Jensen) called me today, the first time I’ve talked to her since I moved up here to Hatley. She said they found Benny’s body – or what was left of it – yesterday. He was drinking with some guys he worked with and decided he was going out to the end of Stone Creek Road. Benny always did get a taste for adventure when he was drinking. That was the last time anybody saw him alive.

 I wonder if he finally believed me?

Jim Graves

I’m going home for Benny’s funeral. You never want a funeral to be the reason for going home, but it’ll be nice to see Amy. Damn she was pretty.

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