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Midnight Snack

By Jeanne_writes | Midnight Snack | 12 Mar 2023

Grenville’s legs throbbed like a son of a bitch. He’d already walked six or seven miles, through the dips and valleys of the town of Caledon where he lived. At first, the chill night air had him wishing he’d brought a jacket but now, sweat rolled off him, dampening his forehead and upper lip. He stopped long enough to peel off his shirt and roll up the legs of his fleecy sweatpants. He looked like a crazy man with his pale boney chest and hairy, stick legs, but no one was around to see him at that time of night ... he hoped. He corrected himself — that time of the morning.

Task accomplished; he resumed his journey to nowhere. Like a wind-up toy, he marched on, one leg in front of the other. Whenever he stopped, his thoughts drifted back to Jenna, his girlfriend. He laughed, though it was without humor — another correction, his ex-girlfriend. They’d broken up a week ago, but Gren felt it coming long before that. He saw it in her eyes every time he’d looked at her; the way she’d hold his gaze for only a second, then her baby blues would dart away, anxiety flickering in them. Though he tried to believe it was only his imagination, he was proven right when she’d finally said, “I need my space.”

He hadn’t asked for an explanation. Deep down, he knew it was for the best — well, the best for Jenna, anyway. She was, after all, a wanderer, someone who wanted to see the world; to “live life to the fullest” as she’d often professed. Maybe she’d been waiting for him to chime in and say, “Hey, that’s something we can do together.” But Gren was a stay-in-one-place-and-put-down-roots kind of man. Unlike most guys his age, he actually wanted a wife and kids. He was ready for it. Hell, he’d been planning it from the age of nine when his mom walked out the door of their shabby apartment in the city, leaving him and his dad to fend for themselves.

The abandonment planted a seed in him — a seed that blossomed into a bottomless, bone-deep yearning for love — the kind only a wife and kids could give. He swore to the depths of his soul he’d never abandon his eventual family the way his mother did. Three or four kids would do, he figured. Stupid him, for the longest time he’d imagined Jenna as his loving, doting wife and the mother of those three or four towheads.

Ah, shit, it didn’t matter now. It was all gone. His dreams and his heart were crushed beyond repair. The only thing that took the edge off was walking. He walked from the time he got home from work, until he was nearly falling down with exhaustion, several hours later. He walked until his feet throbbed and his heels blistered. He even managed to eat dinner while walking. Street meat carts were everywhere and buying something to chow down on only slowed him by a minute or two. Hot dog or hamburger in hand, he’d walk and chomp his way through town.

Each night, by the time he climbed the stairs to his third-floor walk-up, and pulled off his sneakers, his socks were bloodied. The blisters born of earlier adrenaline-fuelled strolls, though bandaged, managed to break and seep through his sweat socks. He made a mental note to buy new sneakers. Despite the sales pitch for his $200 neon blue Nikes, that they were “the most comfortable shoes around”, they hurt like hell. Or, more likely, they weren’t meant for the tortuous marathon of remorse he’d been putting them through.

Tonight, though, he hadn’t stopped for dinner. The ache of his broken heart was particularly painful and pushed him on. Just the notion of going home to his empty apartment made him want to retch. He was tempted to down a few shots of Scotch to take the edge off. It might even lull him into contentment, enough to get a good night’s sleep. But alcohol made him sick. It also made him think of his father.

He looked up at the night sky and slowed his step. It was bright and freckled with stars. A few deep breaths helped, but only a little. The thudding pain of loss soon reasserted itself. He couldn’t live without her. But he couldn’t walk forever. It was a conundrum, and he was chest-deep in it.

Mind and body ached in unison. Life without Jenna was no life at all. He had no one. Not even the father who raised him. The dad who, unlike his mother, never abandoned him. The dad who drank away his pain, instead of turning it into an obsessive-compulsive exercise routine — no father/son similarities there. Dad was gone — eaten up by cancer at the ‘too young to die’ age of fifty-seven.

Tears filled Grenville’s dark brown eyes and he let them. After all, who would see them? Tiny rivulets ran down his cheeks, and he didn’t bother to wipe them away. A gulping sob escaped him and before he knew it, he was gushing. His body heaved. Crying halted him. He couldn’t see much through his tears but did manage to get to the railing of a pedestrian bridge over the Humber River. Suddenly, his head felt too heavy for his neck to hold, and he let it fall into his hands. Then he wiped away tears and snot on the sleeve of the Roots hoodie he had tied around his waist.

“You alright there, young fella?” came a smooth-as-silk baritone, bringing images of Matt Dusk or Michael Buble.

Grenville snapped his head in the direction of the questioner, but darkness hid the owner of the voice. “Who’s there?”

“Shouldn’t be out this late. Young man like you needs rest. Must be something mighty cumbersome weighing you down. You look upset.”

Grenville stepped backward. Bleary-eyed, he looked again for the owner of the crooning voice, but still could see no one. Briefly, he wondered if he’d lost his mind. Stress could do strange things to a man. Then someone stepped from the shadow of a large oak at the edge of the embankment by the bridge. He was dressed in black jeans, a T-shirt, and what looked like a suit jacket. His hands were stuffed into his front pockets and a cigarette clung to his lower lip as if glued there with dried spit.

“I say again, friend, you alright?” The cigarette bobbed as he spoke. He stepped closer. Leaves crunched beneath shiny black dress shoes.

Gren could see his face now, lit by the streetlight. Eyes round and dark and just a little too close together, peered curiously at him from a gaunt face. A wisp of a tidy moustache sat above barely-there lips.

“Fine. I’m fine.” Grenville managed, and then turned to walk away. Maybe going home wasn’t such a bad idea after all. Gren couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but something about the guy was off. And was it his imagination, or did he smell rotten eggs?

A hand clamped down on Gren’s shoulder, stilling him and shooting a chill through one side of his body, from his shoulder to his toes, as if an icicle had been driven into him. Grenville shivered.

“Jenna’s a bitch. You’re better off without her, son.” The stranger’s words sounded like a song, and it took a moment before they registered in Gren’s brain.

Grenville turned around slowly. Fear not gone, but it had been replaced by just enough curiosity to make him talk to the stranger. The man’s grip loosened, and his hand fell to his side. He tilted his head and grinned — thin lips disappearing into a curved line.

“How ... Who?” Gren gave his head a shake. He didn’t know what to ask first. Who the hell was this guy? And, more importantly, how in shit did he know anything about his personal life?

The stranger laughed, plucked the cigarette from his lips and tucked it neatly behind an ear. Grenville saw that it was unlit.

“Relax, Gren. I’m a friend.” He held out a hand but Grenville wouldn’t shake it. It was hard looking as if made of dried leather and had a yellowish tinge to it, reminding him of a chicken claw.

“Who are you, and how do you know my name?” Grenville’s tone was heavy with fear.

The stranger nodded toward his outstretched hand. “Gonna leave a fella hanging? Well that’s just swell, ain’t it?” He let his hand drop. “It’s cool, chum. No worries.” He patted his dark-as-night Brylcreemed hair, which had a part on the left side as straight as a pin. “I know a lot about you.”

He inclined his head as if studying Gren, then smiled again but this time, he showed off his biggest, brightest, toothiest grin. But the stranger’s pearly whites weren’t exactly pearly, nor were they white. In the dim light, Gren thought he saw a mouth filled with needles instead of teeth. They sparkled. They actually fucking sparkled!

The decision to run was instant, but as soon as Gren thought it, the man shot out a chicken claw hand, wrapping leathery fingers around Grenville’s wrist. “No. Don’t go. I’m hungry,” he said with a chuckle.

“What the ...” Grenville yanked mightily but the man’s grip was vice-like. He looked down to see that the ends of the stranger’s nails were filed to a point. Points that were digging into Gren’s flesh and drawing blood. Panic crawled through him, and he shivered again, feeling as if a cape of solid ice had been thrown over his shoulders. The words “I’m hungry” echoed in Grenville’s head. What the hell was he planning to eat? He tried to twist away, but it was no use. He kicked out and caught the man squarely on the knee cap. A pop resounded in the night air and the stranger’s grip loosened enough for Gren to pull away and run.

He spied someone up ahead. A woman! “Hey,” Gren screamed waving his arms to grab her attention before she disappeared behind the building she was heading toward. He dared a glance behind him expecting to see the foul-smelling stranger nipping at his heels. Thankfully, he was alone and a sigh of relief escaped him — still, fear propelled him on.

The woman stopped and turned toward the sound of his voice. She was at least thirty yards away, but he was closing in fast. As he neared and slowed his step, she moved closer to the side of a building which was illuminated by a security light mounted under the eavestrough.

“Jenna?” Gren’s legs nearly abandoned him, but he fell against the stone of the old pub, which was locked up for the night.

She smiled and for a moment he forgot about the man, the crazy son-of-a-bitch who’d scared him back by the bridge. He wanted to take her hand or caress her cheek. Her smile was inviting enough, but he thought better of it. Could it be she was just as upset about their break-up as he was? Could she be out walking to vanquish the pain of her broken heart? It was a possibility. After all, when she moved out of their apartment, she’d only gone a couple blocks away and was now living with her best friend, Paula.

“What are you doing out so late?” he asked.

An eyebrow shot up. “I could ask the same of you.”

Then he remembered the madman. “We shouldn’t be out here, especially under the light.” Gently, he took her arm and together, they found a darker, more secluded spot. “There’s some weirdo wandering around. I mean a really strange dude. I should walk you home. We gotta get out of here.”

He was expecting the Jenna he’d last had a conversation with. The Jenna who’d told him in no uncertain terms she never wanted to see him again — that they were finished, and he should move on, but this Jenna seemed happy to see him. She’d allowed him to take her arm, and even smiled at his concern for her safety.

“I don’t wanna go home,” she said. “Paula’s a pain in the ass. She snores, you know. I can hear her no matter where I go in the apartment. That’s why I’m out here walking around.”

He had an idea, but cringed inwardly at the response he was sure he would get. “Wanna come back to my place?”

But she smiled and nodded. “That would be nice.”

He smiled and nodded, too. “Maybe we could talk?”

They walked together. Gren suggested they pick up their pace just in case the weirdo was lurking.

Soon they were at his front door, and he was unlocking it — the stranger by the river all but forgotten.

“How ‘bout a drink?” he asked.

She nodded.

“Coffee? I have decaf. It won’t keep you up. You hungry? I can make us a sandwich or something.”

“Sure, Gren. That would be nice.”

Grenville toed off his shoes and felt instant relief. His feet throbbed and his toes and heels had bled through his sweat socks as usual. He noticed Jenna glancing at them, a head tilt as if assessing the situation, but she said nothing. His heart dropped with disappointment. Didn’t she give a damn? Here he was standing in the middle of his kitchen with blood-soaked socks and all she could do was to stare at his feet with a stupid grin on her face. At least it looked like a grin. Was she happy he was hurt? Suddenly, Grenville didn’t feel much like making that sandwich and coffee. His heart squeezed close. He wanted her out of his place — which, not so long ago was their place. A place he couldn’t stand to be in without her.

There she sat at the kitchen table, legs crossed, fingers interlaced and wrapped around a knee. Hands that were somehow not Jenna’s anymore but leathery, yellow, and hard as nails flashed quick as the flutter of an eyelid. Bile rose in the back of his throat.

It was only his imagination. He looked away then back, relief filling him. It had only been a trick of the eye after all because there they were, Jenna’s hands with their long, tapered fingers and painted nails.

“I’m hungry,” she said a bit haughtily. “Thought I was gonna get to eat.”

Gren’s heartbeat quickened with her words. Wasn’t that what the creepy guy had said? The scent of something foul filled his nostrils. A trick of the nose? He almost laughed at the thought, but fear stopped him when Jenna stood and started toward him, a steely look in her eyes. She gave him a grin that grew into a smile, only it didn’t stir him like her smiles always used to. It terrified him. The light in the apartment was artificial and yellow, but Gren didn’t think it was the light giving her the look of ... of what? A demon? A serial killer? A skinny, over-tired young woman?

He backed up until he hit the counter hard with the small of his back. It hurt like hell, but he didn’t react — his attention was on Jenna, who was walking dreamily toward him, that wide smile showing all her teeth. Teeth that weren’t white, but shiny. Teeth that he swore looked like the points of darts.

Then came the crooning voice, “Looks like it’s just you and me now, kiddo.”

Jenna was replaced by the stranger as if by magic — hocus pocus, alakazam. There he stood in his sports coat, T-shirt, jeans, and pointy-toed dress shoes with that cigarette parked neatly behind an ear. “Mind if I have my midnight snack now?”

He lunged.

Grenville ducked and slammed against the stove. He caught sight of a bank of knives on the counter.

The stranger noticed too and gave a tsk tsk along with a shake of his head. “Oh now, you don’t want to use one of those. They can’t hurt a fella like me, Gren.”

With an agility he hadn’t realized he possessed, Grenville snapped up the longest and sharpest of the tools. He didn’t know if it would or could do any damage to this man-creature in front of him, but he felt a hell of a lot better wielding his Shun Classic Chef knife. The heft of it, the non-slip grip and its razor-sharp edge calmed him.

Holding it in front of him with both hands, he said in a quavering voice, “Get the hell outta here right now and I won’t hurt you.” Gren’s eyes locked with the creature-man’s and he thought he saw something that looked very much like fear in them. This surprised and emboldened him. Grenville held the knife up in a more menacing fashion as if he were about to plunge it into the man’s chest.

The stranger pressed himself flat against the refrigerator, then the fearful look drained away and he smirked. He took the cigarette from its perch at the top of his ear and played with it, first placing it between his lips, then flipping it gamely between long, hard, nimble fingers. “Why, I do believe you thought I was afraid of you, young fella.” He whooped heartily and bent over, holding his side. His laugh was the crackling hack of a life-long smoker.

He straightened. A glinting smile stretched out his cheeks. “Name’s Feltch by the way. Nicholas Feltch. But everyone calls me Feltch. I won’t bother you anymore if you give me a little something to tide me over. Whatcha say, friend?”

Grenville wondered exactly what Feltch wanted, a draw of hemoglobin from his jugular perhaps, or a couple mouthfuls of flesh? Judging by the ring of needle-teeth that seemed to appear and then vanish, Grenville suspected it would be either of those or maybe both.

“I’m not gonna say it again. Get the hell outta my apartment!”

Feltch snapped the cigarette in half and crumpled the tobacco, letting it fall from his fingers onto the floor. A look of displeasure overrode his good humor, and he took a step closer.

Grenville thrust the knife at Feltch, but his wrist was quickly caught in an ever-tightening grip until his fingers loosened and his hundred-dollar Shun Classic clattered to the floor. Gren’s eyes grew to the size of poker chips and all he could think to do was pray.

“Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name ...” His voice was high, shrill, and full of panic.

Feltch’s nostrils flared and his lips turned up into a snarl. “Stop!” He screamed and slapped Gren’s face so hard that he loosened a tooth. The coppery taste of blood filled his mouth and he spat. Along with a gob of blood, his tooth, too, landed with a clink onto the tiles.

Feltch’s grip on Gren’s wrist had relaxed enough for him to yank free. “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven ...” Gren scrabbled around to pull another knife from the block. His tongue found the place where the tooth had been and poked around the now vacant spot.

Feltch’s hand flew to his ears as he pushed past Grenville, knocking him with a shoulder that seemed made more of marble than flesh and bone. A stab of pain stunned him and he fell to a knee. It was as if he was on fire. It couldn’t just have been the knock Feltch had given him. It was more than that. It was as if Feltch had sent that pain; willed it at him. And he’d done something else, too. Try as he might, Gren couldn’t remember another word of the Lord’s Prayer. A steel door had slammed down on his brain.

Feltch was beside him now, a gnarled hand entwined in Grenville’s hair. The man-creature yanked Gren’s head back as far as it would go. His heart jackhammered against his ribs, and he knew the artery in his neck would be pulsating and engorged. Soon he’d feel those needle-teeth ripping into his flesh. With eyes pressed shut, he waited for death.

Breath, fetid and hot, blew against Gren’s throat and in it, he felt the creature’s eagerness. Yet there was still a part of Grenville, a sliver of defiance that made him aware of something else. It was the grip of the knife in his hands. Without opening his eyes, he swung it upward. When the knife struck something hard, Gren dared to look.

He’d gotten him. A smaller version of his Shen Classic stood straight out of Feltch’s cheekbone like an arrow shot into an archery board. Feltch was standing now, those syringe teeth thankfully far enough from Grenville’s jugular to give him the opportunity to scrabble toward the door of his apartment.

He opened it and ran.

As soon as Gren’s blood-soaked socked feet hit the road, he was off. Instinct drove him the three blocks to Paula’s place, where Jenna was staying. He had to be sure she was safe. He’d call the cops from there to let them know about the crazy-ass monster-man who’d attacked him. His lungs burned and though the throbbing in his legs was colossal, adrenaline fueled him until he was at Paula’s door, slamming both fists against the glass insert.

Gren looked around wildly, scared shitless he was going to see that monster turning the corner, slowing his step in that cool dude way he had, with that fucked up grin on his face. He saw nothing. He heard nothing except the night breeze riffling the leaves on the tree-lined street.

A moment passed that seemed to stretch into a small forever. He pounded again and then gave the doorbell a ten-second buzz. Finally, a light flicked on in the hallway and he spotted a woman striding his way through the smoky glass of the front door. It reminded him of a fun house mirror — the woman’s shape distorted by the bevels in the glass.

A click, the door was unlocked and opened a crack. The safety chain was still in place, pulled taut. But when Paula recognized him, she shut the door again and he heard the safety chain sliding off. The door swung wide.

“Gren? What the fuck?” Her eyes went immediately to his bloody socks.

He stepped uninvited into the house, making Paula back up a step. Her mouth hung open like a gate on a busted hinge, but she didn’t protest. He shut the door and locked it, chain safety and all. Gren took her by the arm and walked her farther inside.

His words came rapid fire, “Paula, I know this looks weird and I’ll explain but first, please tell me Jenna is safe. Tell me that she’s asleep in her bed.”

“Jesus, Grenville, it’s three in the morning! Of course, she’s sleeping.”

He pointed at the staircase. “Go check.”

She stared at him, pulling her robe tight and clutching it at the neck. “Why?”

“Just humor me and check, Paula. Please! It’s really important that I know she’s okay.”

Paula looked at his socks again, then up at his face. “What happened to you? Is that blood on your lip?”

He heaved a sigh. “Just fucking do as I ask and then I’ll tell you everything.” He yelled and was instantly sorry. Paula could be a bitch but she’d mostly been nice to him. She even phoned after he and Jenna had broken up to check in on him. Then a thought struck. What if Paula wasn’t Paula? What if Feltch had beaten him here and somehow took her form?

“When’s your birthday?” he asked.

She looked a little confused by his question and he thought he saw tears starting to form in her eyes, but he pushed all concern aside for the moment.

“Answer me.”

“Feb... February third.” There was fear in her voice. He must look like a crazy man — still, he wasn’t ready to accept that she was the real Paula.

“And where do you work?” He pressed.

Tears ran down her cheeks. “Why are you doing this, Gren? What’s happening?”

“Where do you work?”

“At a car dealership.”

“Which one?”

“Brockville Honda.” She swiped at her tears, and he finally felt sure enough to put a comforting hand on her shoulder. The only thing he didn’t know was how much time he had until Feltch found him. He needed to make sure Jenna was okay and then he’d call the cops. Or better still, maybe he’d call them now while Paula checked on Jenna.

“I’m sorry, Paula. I didn’t mean to frighten you. Can you call the police while I check on Jenna? It’s a matter of life or death.”

She laughed.

Gren’s eyes widened when he saw the needle-teeth crowding her mouth. She grasped his forearm and tightened, the pain sending him to his knees. The grip was firmer than before and this time, Gren had no time to pray before his jugular was met with a hundred syringe-teeth. He felt himself being drained — the up-flow of his blood sucked into those teeth-like things.

The monster pulled away, but only long enough to say, “What did I tell you, friend? I know you. I mean I really know you. Did you think you could outsmart a fella like me?” He smirked. “By the way, you taste like chicken deep fried in Crisco. A tad too much cholesterol floating around in your bloodstream. Nasty stuff, that cholesterol.”

Feltch shook his head in disapproval. Droplets of blood flew from his lips, speckling the wall.

“Don’t you know it clogs the arteries, chum?” For the briefest of moments, Gren’s eyes met Feltch’s. They were yellow like his hands. Feltch gave him a crimson grin, and then pulled Grenville to his waiting mouth.

The last words Gren heard were, “I’m too hungry to complain about a little fat in my diet, friend. I kindly thank you for your hospitality.”

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I'm a USA Today bestselling author. I've written 12 novels and I also work as an editor. I love crypto, writing and Boston terriers.

Midnight Snack
Midnight Snack

All Grenville wanted was to walk away his woes but he ended up with so much more.

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