The April Selected Writer is Michael Albani
Please feel free to contact Michael at: email@example.com
by Michael Albani
It wasn’t the storm that woke him up, although the storm was pretty bad. In fact, it might have been the worst thunderstorm Brad Breuer had ever weathered. Raindrops were bombarding his house like German shells over London in 1941. Lightning bolts stretched out across the midnight sky like luminous skeletal hands. And, of course, there was the thunder. The thunder was the worst. With every boom of thunder the house shuddered and shook like a dollhouse in the hands of a toddler. There was no doubt about it, Thor was angry tonight.
Brad was now wide awake. He glanced over at the motionless body of his still-sleeping wife. She had a blindfold over her eyes, a pair of earplugs in her ears, and enough sleep aid medication running through her bloodstream to take down a bull. Even an air raid siren could not have woken her up.
“What good is a burglar alarm if you’re not even going to wake up?” Brad said in disgust.
His wife continued to sleep.
Brad rested his head on his pillow and tried to close his eyes. He wished the rhythm of the rainfall against the house could sooth him back to sleep. It didn’t.
After a few minutes, Brad began to feel his bladder churning. He needed to go to the bathroom, and he needed to go bad. He arose from his bed and paused for a moment at his bedroom door. He opened the door and stared out into the blackness of the hall.
“All right. You can do this,” he said reassuringly. He hated having to leave his bedroom during a thunderstorm. He had hated it since he was only a boy and his mother had told him about the thunder thieves.
“Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” the boy screamed as he pounded on his mother’s locked bedroom door. “Mommy, open up! I’m scared!”
Rain was coming down hard outside. A tremendous blast of thunder had awoken little Bradley Breuer from his Flash Gordon dream. He was terribly afraid of thunderstorms. He desperately pounded on his mother’s bedroom door in the hopes that she would come out and rescue him.
He pounded on the door and yelled for a few solid minutes before he finally heard the tumblers of the door begin to turn. The door slowly opened and his mother stood behind it, rubbing the crust out of her eyes with a sour expression on her face. She grabbed her son by his left arm and pulled him close to her.
“Bradley,” she said, obviously not fully awake yet, “what are you doing out of bed at this hour?”
“I’m sorry, Mommy,” he replied timidly. “I know I’m not supposed to be out of bed, but I was scared. I wanted to be with you.”
His mother smiled warmly. “Now, Bradley, you know the thunder can’t hurt you.”
“Yeah, Mommy. I know, but I was…”
“But it’s still not safe to get out of bed during a thunderstorm. If you get out of bed during a thunderstorm, they might get you.”
“They? Who’s they?”
“Who’s they? Why, the thunder thieves, of course.” Bradley’s mother smiled deviously.
“The thunder thieves?”
Bradley’s mother had educated him about monsters before. There was the thumbsquatch, a big footed monster with a cleaver for a hand that would cut off his thumbs if he didn’t stop sucking them. There was the veggiechaun, an imp that would gobble him up in one bite if he didn’t eat his vegetable. Bradley knew about many monsters, but these thunder thieves sounded like they might be the scariest of them all.
“What are thunder thieves, Mommy?” he asked.
“Well,” she began, “they’re creatures that live underground. But on nights like this, on thundery and stormy nights, they like to come up to the surface world because they can’t be seen in the darkness and the pitter-patter of their little feet can’t be heard over the sound of thunder.
“They’re tiny monsters. They only come up to about your ankle. They have thick, leathery skin like moles and instead of hands and feet they’ve got messes of tentacles that they use to taste things.”
“They don’t have normal mouths. They’ve got holes in their faces filled with rows of razor-sharp teeth and surrounded by more tentacles. They don’t have noses either. They’ve got long tongues they use to smell with like snakes.”
His mother’s description of the thunder thieves’ mouths made him think of the sarlacc from Return of the Jedi, his favorite movie.
“They’ve got humongous eyes too. Humungous eyes that they can use to see in almost absolute darkness. Bradley, if you should ever look directly into those eyes, the thunder thieves will come for you and take you away.”
“But why would they take me away, Mommy?”
Tears started to form in Bradley’s eyes. “Mommy, couldn’t they come and get me in my room?”
“Don’t be silly, Bradley. Thunder thieves don’t go into people’s bedrooms. What are they going to steal in there, underwear? Now come on, close your eyes and I’ll carry you back to your bed. And I don’t want to see you come out again, do you hear me?”
Bradley’s mother carried him across the hall and back into his bedroom. She tucked him in, kissed him on the cheek, and closed the door behind her. After a little tossing and turning, Bradley finally fell asleep again. That night, he wet the bed.
In the present, Brad Breuer was doing his best not to wet his pajamas. He was grown up and married now, but the story of the thunder thieves that his mother manufactured to keep him from disturbing her night’s rest still haunted him. Most childhood monsters have a way of doing that. Still, with great effort, he managed to leave his bedroom and make his way into the adjacent bathroom.
Once Brad finished doing his business, he washed his hands and opened the bathroom door. He had almost made it back to his bedroom when suddenly a flash of lightning illuminated the entire house. With his peripheral vision, he saw something slowly scuttle across the kitchen floor. His heart stopped.
Could his mother have been telling him the truth? Was it possible that the thunder thieves were real? No. It was probably just a mouse. Brad’s house had been infested with the filthy creatures ever since his cat died. There had to be some hole they were getting in through that only the cat knew about. He quickly went into his bedroom and retrieved a baseball bat from his closet so he could do some exterminating.
He decided not to turn on any lights. If he did, he would only alert the mouse to his presence and the filthy creature would scurry away to warn his verminous comrades. For a moment, he just stood in the hallway and waited for his eyes to adjust to the darkness.
When he finally made it to the kitchen, he did not see any mice. He scanned the floor but could not find anything. He then began to look upwards to see if the mouse had climbed all the way up to the countertop.
There was something there, but it was not a mouse. It was a creature that Brad had never seen before, an ugly little thing that was carrying away one of the dirty forks he had left in the sink. It stopped and looked at Brad and he became transfixed in its glowing green eyes.
The creature was not much larger than a human fist. Beneath its glowing green eyes it had no nose. There was only a tiny slit filled with rows and rows of shark-like teeth and surrounded by tentacles. It was a bipedal creature, but it was hunched over like some Frankensteinien laboratory assistant. It was chubby and black and its skin looked as coarse as sandpaper. On the ends of its arms and legs were five tentacle-like fingers.
For an instant, Brad and the creature just stood and stared at each other. Time had stopped. Even the thunder seemed to have stopped. Both looked like they were dumbfounded by the other’s mere existence.
Time started up again with the next flash of lightning and accompanying blast of thunder. Brad thought of hitting the creature with his bat, but was so filled with fright that he just stumbled backward. The creature waddled across the countertop until it came to the edge and pointed at Brad with a single tentacle-finger. Its mouth produced a shrill wail like one of the alien pod people from Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Suddenly, the cupboards beneath the counter flew open and dozens of thunder thieves burst out, all of them producing the same high-pitched tone. Brad wanted to scream as well, but he was paralyzed with fear. It would not have helped anyway. With her earplugs in and her body all doped up on sleeping pills, his wife would not have been able to hear him. The creatures shuffled across the hardwood kitchen floor and started to climb onto his pajamas.
As they started to do this, Brad broke out of his paralysis. This was really happening. This was not a dream. He had to fight. He had to win.
Brad arose and started kicking the monsters. When he had fallen down, he accidentally flung his baseball bat out of reach, so his feet and his fists were his only weapons. He kicked and punched and tried to inch his way toward the baseball bat.
He was starting to gain the upper hand when even more thunder thieves came pouring out of the cupboards. They climbed onto his body and started ripping holes in his pajamas. They touched their slimy tentacles to his bare skin and stung him.
Brad felt each and every sting, piercing blows that only grew more painful and intense. Soon, though, the pain began to subside and he just felt dizzy and disoriented. It was then that something occurred to him. Perhaps the creatures’ slimy appendages were not tentacles at all. Perhaps they were more like the tendrils of the sea anemone and were spreading a paralyzing neurotoxin throughout his body.
Brad panicked. There had to be some sort of neurotoxin taking effect on him. He was growing weaker and weaker. He was falling to the ground. As he fell, he reached out and grabbed a drawer handle. He opened the drawer and prayed that there would be something inside that he could use as a weapon. His prayer was answered. He pulled out a steak knife.
He was now sprawled out on the floor and the thunder thieves were swarming over his body. He channeled all his remaining strength into his right arm. He raised his knife into the air and brought it down onto one of the creatures only to have the blade shatter on its armor-like skin.
After administering only a few more doses of their poison, the creatures had won. They had killed Brad Breuer. Like an army of ants that had just killed a spider, the army of thunder thieves maneuvered under Brad’s lifeless body, lifted it up, and carried it out of the house.
Brad Breuer’s wife woke up alone the next morning. Her husband’s side of the bed near the alarm clock and the telephone was empty and cold. She figured he must have been gone for a long time.
She was very nervous. For quite some time now she and her husband had been fighting. He had spent quite a few late nights at the office and she was beginning to question his fidelity. She feared that he had run away with some cheap tramp in the dead of the night.
However, there was no evidence to support her suspicions. Brad’s car was still in the garage. None of his clothes or personal belongings were out of place. Even his wallet was still in the right-hand desk drawer where he always left it.
Brad had not left. He had simply vanished. The only things missing from the house were a few pennies from the junk drawer and a few miscellaneous pieces of silverware.
Michael Albani is a native of Roseville, Michigan. He is currently working on earning a Bachelor’s Degree in English with Creative Writing with Emphasis and History from Albion College.
Michael is the founder and editor of new online environmental fiction zine Appalachia Fiction and Fact. He has been published for horror fiction in Flashes in the Dark and Deadman’s Tome.