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The Closet (also titled Skin Snatchers) This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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The clock downstairs ticks slowly past midnight, its chimes ringing softly in the cold, silent house. The full, autumn moon handing low in the starless sky, casting a silver light across Sam's walls. Ghosts, imps and spirits dances gleefully in the cool glow, their dark shapes flattened against the washed out paint. Sam, a small boy for twelve, pale and already seeming years beyond his own, sits frozen on his bed, eyes wide with terror. He stares into the depths of his closet, green eyes glazed over and unmoving. Every once and again his eyes would flash to the shadows on his wall, lips moving slightly, softly, as if in a trance. A voice, his own, shatters the silence, his voice a high whisper.

"Mom says they don't exist. There is nothing living in my closet. There are no voices that speak to me when I close my eyes. No cold fingers that trail down my face, my neck, my spine." He shudders, as if feeling the fingers now, goosebumps spreading like fire across his skin. Like they did before, after cold, clammy fingers had caressed his skin just as he had started to drift off.

"Its just a dream."

He gaze shifts back to the closet after unconsciously staring at the shadows still on the wall. His eyes focused on the closet, as if willing the open door, which is never close, can never close, to close, just this once. It is always open. Close it, it opens. Sometimes right before his eyes. No one believes him. No one understands him. Mom did. Once upon a time, she did. She doesn't laugh at him before. Looks at him with concern instead of amusement. And not with concern with the creatures in his closet. Concerns of Sam's apparent madness. The boy begins to speak again, as if to the closet.

"She said that you would stop. You don't exist. That you would never call to me in the night. Now she says I have to grow up. That now I am just being silly. But you are there, aren't you?"

His eyes narrow, his voice an angry, frustrated hiss.

"But she lied! She stopped caring. You didn't stop. You still speak to me, still whisper to me. Your dark, evil promises, promises of revenge. But where are you now? I can hear you whisper, but you are not here."

Clouds cover the moon sky in response, dimming the light that had be lighting the room, creatures abandoning their dance, the closet dark as pitch. Spooked, no longer angry, terrified once more, backs into the corner of his bed, pressed against his wall, knees drawn up against his chest. Light flashes briefly outside, illuminating the closet, taunting Sam with its apparent emptiness. A clap of thunder quickly follows, magnified by the small room, making Sam jump. Suddenly audible, voices, smooth as glass, flows from the open closet door.

"Sam, we know where mummy is..."

"But we promised we wouldn't tell."

Same closed his eyes, counting to ten to calm his rapid heartbeat. He opened them again. Two pairs of eyes stared back at him, glowing in the dark, glinting evilly. One pair, a pale yellow. The other a luminescent emerald. Another flash of lightning exposed the closet, but once again, the closet was seemingly vacant.

Softly, barely audible, the voices continued. They were soft this time, effeminate, soothingly familiar. But they were edged with something, something Sam recognized as danger. Unnatural. An evil in an angels disguise.

"Does he know?"

"He does now"

"Ah, does he shiver? Look! How he trembles."

"Is it ready?"

"Yes. I hid it well. Master will never know."

The yellow eyes, placed higher than it's companion's green, blinked once, twice, as if trying to focus. Giggles, soft at first, grew louder, echoing off the walls, mixing with the soft patter of the fast arriving thunderstorm. The rain, illuminated from a street light that had been turned on, slides down the window, making patterns replacing demons on the wall.

"Mother? Where is she?" called Sam. The yellow eyes narrowed sharply, swiftly accompanying an aggravated hiss.

"Foolish human child. He questions what he has no right to know. Don’t be a bad boy, Sam, or her fate you'd surely follow."

The green eyes, dormant before, now gleamed in the dim light, bobbing up and down excitedly, making the owner appear to be incredibly gleeful.

"Dinner was quite lovely, wasn't it, ducky?" said a second voice. The second voice was higher than the first, pitchier, unlike the smoothness of the first. It almost made the owner appear juvenile.

The yellow pair disappeared, the demon purring in pleasure. The slight humming sent a shiver running down Sam's spine, the hairs upright on his neck. He shifted uneasily. "Mmm, 'twas, 'twas. Our meal will only be completed with a little dessert." A loud, evil cackle reverberated throughout the closet.

Distressed, Sam pointed shakily at the closet. "Go away!" he cried, voice quivering. He bared his teeth, trying to pass off his obvious fear as bravery, but was unable to stop the fear from glazing over his eyes. He knew that whatever the creatures had done to his mom, they were going to do to him.

Downstairs the old grandfather clock chimed again, announcing the arrival of the half-mark. Outside the storm worsened , wind pounding against the windowpanes. Inside the closet, something rustled, shifting as if to find room for itself in an already cramped space. A third set of eyes, an icy blue, much larger than the other two, appeared, suspended above the other.

"Imps! What are you doing! There was to be no contact to the boy!" A low, gravelly voice rumbled. The excited chatter from the other two demons quieted, and their silence was followed by high-pitched squeals of anger and pain.

"Ooh! Look what you've done, you hack! You've awaken master!"

"We didn't tell, I swear!"

"We were having fun, is all, honest!"

An angry hiss escaped from the third creature, stifling the voices of the other two. "Shut up! All in due course."

Sam peered into the closet nervously, trying to see past the thick darkness. "Who... who's there?"

The green eyes bounced energetically. "Ooh! He smells so yummy! Lemme hook him! He looks so innocent..."

"Yes, and he looks so delicious. Master?" the yellow eyes' voice curved up into a question, genuinely asking for permission. Both sets of eyes looked to the big blue ones in anticipation.

He growled, eyes shifting to a light lilac. "Lets just stick to the plan, shall we?"

Taking advantage of their distraction, Sam reached across the bed to the nightstand, where a flashlight sat at the ready to illuminate the darkness. Hand shaking terribly, he fumbled for the switch. The yellow-eyed demon looked at him suddenly and hissed, darting out of the closet, a blur in the darkness, snatching the light.

Sam looked up at her, seeing for the first time the monster that stalks his closet. But he furrowed his brows in confusion. This was no monster. She was tall and slim, appearance almost human-like save for her eyes and unnaturally long and thin fingers. Hair cascaded down her back, long and smooth like liquid silk, black like the place it came from, partially concealing her darkened face. She bared her teeth, canines baring tapering into points. She looked eerily familiar. Almost like his mother... unnaturally so.

Swiftly and without apparent effort, she brought it up to her mouth and crunched down on it with her teeth, destroying his only readily available light source. She hissed at him menacingly.

Another demon, the green-eyed one, rushed out and lashed and latched herself onto the yellow one. This one was young and fair, appearing to be no older that sixteen years old, with the grace of one that was centuries. Like the yellow eyed one, she was also familiar, fiercely resembling his sister Kendra. Almost an exact copy, with the hint of alien traits.

"No light for you, human." The younger one yowled, voice devoid of all playfulness like she had exhibited earlier. "Our master, Aviscus, says that like is evil. Light is bad, he says, and if the light is bad, than you are bad."

"Raven?"

The green eyed one looked up at the other, eyes wide at her name being called. "Yes Rowan?"

"Shut up, please?"

Raven looked down at her bare, long toes. "Ok" she mumbled.

Sam chuckled softly, surprised at the manners displayed between the two. He puffed out his chest. "I'm not afraid of you." he said, firmly.

Raven giggled, followed by a sharp smack in the head by the taller Rowan. Rowan glared at Sam. "Neither was your mother boy, look how she turned out." She ran a hand lightly down the length of her body, staring at the smooth skin fondly. Like-wise, Raven could be seen doing the same with her own. Lightning flashed again, sending the two scurrying back to the safety of the dark closet.

Aviscus hissed with impatience. "Hurry up! Fools, the pair of you! Dawn is appearing in a matter of hours! We haven't the time for your..." he drifted off, shoving the two forcefully back out of the closet.

Raven turned around and childishly stuck her tongue out at the unseen demon in the closet. She turned back to her quiet sister, who was still stiff from the flash of lightning before.

"Why don’t we play a game?" she suggested.

Rowan turned to her sister slowly. "Game?" Raven nodded excitedly, eyes wide in anticipation.

"Lets pick his nose!" She said to the younger one.

"No, Lets chew his ears!"

"Pull him apart!"

"Yesss and see how he works!"

"Then can we eat him?"

Sam rolled his eyes at the pair, who were facing each other, grasping hands and bouncing. "Haven't you learned to not play with your food?"

Raven hissed. "I don’t follow human rules, boy!"

A loud roar erupted from the closet, the lead demon obviously insanely outraged and impatient. "Enough of this foolishness! Bring the d*mned boy here!"

Sam flinched. Rowan and Raven grabbed at his arms. Sam struggled, managing to pull away from them and running towards the rooms light switch. Before he could reach the switch, Aviscus jumped out, huge and grotesque, like a gargoyle cursed into life. Sam lunged for the light switch desperately, only to be yanked by the green-eyed demon roughly from behind. Raven embraced him from behind, burying her face deep into his neck, letting his body heat and rapid pulse wash over her. Her tongue flicked out and she licked his young skin, letting the saltiness of Sam coat her taste buds.

"It’s a shame we can just eat him now. So tasty." she drew out the last word blissfully.

Rowan rolled her eyes. "Raven! Shut up and hurry up. Sam! Be a good boy for us."

Sam went limp as he felt the sharp points of Raven's teeth gently press down on his earlobe.

Aviscus growled, grabbing the lethargic boy out of the she-demons embrace. Quick as a flash, he clamped down on the boys throat, cutting through his jugular with sharp, dog-like teeth, twisting his head in the process to break the boys neck. He hummed, almost a purr, at the small cracking sound. He slowly backed into the closet.

The other two demons giggled uncontrollably, anxious to begin their playtime.

Once again the night was still and quiet. The only noise heard was the grandfather clock, soft chimes innocently announcing the nights new time. Two short chimes. In a room nearby, a man groaned silently in his sleep, turning to his other side, snoring slightly.



The next morning, Sam's father enters the room. He was tall, muscled and toned from years of training in the military. He looked cold. Harsh and cruel. However, upon entering the room and seeing the bulge beneath his sons blanket, his features softened. He strides over and pats the top of the lump gently.

He spoke, voice rough from years of shouting commands at terrified recruits, slightly upset that it was a school morning and his son had yet to come down. He was still upset that he had to cook the breakfast, his wife days before going on a business trip, his daughter fleeing to a friends house the night after an argument between the girl and her father.

"Son, time for school. I made you pancakes, your favorite. Mom and Kendra are still not home, so its not the best. I know its hard to sleep nowadays because of the monsters in your closet." He couldn't help the smirk and mocking tone that accompanied his last words.

He paused, puzzled that his son had not stirred. He pulled back the blanket. "Sam?"

The covers now gone exposed the pile of pillows and stuffed animals tossed together in a vague humanesque bulge. The man jumps up and looks around, quickly spotting a pool of blood on the floor by the light switch.

How did I miss that before? He thought. "Sam? Son are you okay?" he called.

He followed the trail leading from the puddle to the closet, which, for once was closed. He didn't understand Sam's fear of the closet. How he could be so afraid of what was inside yet always leave it open. As he neared the closed door, hair began to stick up all over his body.

"Sam? Scout, are you okay?" he repeated, cautiously. A faint tapping begins inside the closet on the other side of the door. Convinced his son was playing tricks, he ran over a stern lecture in his mind for his son about the merits of scaring the life out of his father. He turned the knob slowly and carefully pulled the door open.

Long, thin fingers dark out, twisting the collar of the short-sleeved shirt that the father was wearing, yanking the big man into the closet with ease. The door slams shut with a loud bang, and a long strand of giggles escapes the closet, high and effeminate.

"Lets play with him."

"Pick his nose."

"Nibble his ears."

"Pull him apart."

"See how he works."

"Then can we eat him?"

A low voice cuts in. "Yes, but I want his skin."





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