He was a good father, in the sense that he'd check under the bed for monsters, check in the closet for supernatural intruders, and assure his son that he had no reason to be afraid.
It did nothing to ease the boy's tension.
He could feel it, the dark entity harbored within those unseen places, even as his father kissed him on the forehead.
"Everything is alright, son. Don't fear it."
The man would speak those words every evening as he stood in the doorway. Then he'd leave the room in total darkness.
It troubled the boy, the cryptic tone, and the use of the word "it". He pushed the uneasy feeling to the back of his mind as he forced himself to drift off to sleep, but that's when he would hear it, just before the final push into unconsciousness, a faint breathing in the corner of his room. It seemed to grow closer with each passing night, as if it were slowly becoming more confident in its approach. Thoughts would swim in his head, frantic and competing for the forefront of his psyche.
It's just my morbid imagination.
There is no such thing as monsters.
Something very bad is about to happen.
He'd lay in a paralyzed state, the blanket held up to his chin, his eyes desperately trying to adjust to the dark; he couldn't speak, unsure of what he would even say, couldn't move. He felt trapped, confined not only by his bedcovers, but by the walls that surrounded him. Despite how young he was, he had always been aware of the possibility that he might die, that whatever occupied his room at night would eventually reach out to take him.
But the contact never came.
"Papa, there's something in my room," he'd say the next morning.
"It's nothing," would be his father's response, along with a paternal pat on the head.
That concerned him, how the man didn't flat out deny the possibility of an intruder, he wasn't so young that he couldn't recognize the difference one word could make, he still couldn't put a finger on the reason why his father insisted on using the word "it", as opposed to the preferred "there's nothing".
For years this went on, the questioning and the denial, until eventually the inevitable happened.
The newly adolescent boy had been tucked in for the night, but he refused to close his eyes, and then he heard it, the door creaking open, the hall outside just as dark as his room. He pulled the blanket up to his chin, just as he had done countless nights before, quaking with anxiety, but he was determined to confront the monster that had been tormenting him. He waited, his chest constricting as the familiar breathing grew closer with each passing beat of his overactive heart, until he felt the creature's breath hit his neck.
And that's when it came. The touch.
It made him tense, it felt wrong, it felt vile, the bony digits crawling along his collarbone. He wanted to cry, wanted to lash out, but he opted for running. He threw the covers off himself, sprinting for the door, the only way out, the only way to escape this heinous nightmare. But he couldn't resist the urge to turn on the lights, it was an intense form of morbid curiosity, and when he did- he wished he hadn't.
There, right beside his bed, was the spitting image of his father, but it couldn't be... Could it?
He stared in disbelief, the man was standing by his bed, his chest heaving and his eyes dead; his gaze was absolutely void of life. It was the most unpleasant sight the twelve year old had ever endured. He turned and went straight to the living room, turning all the lights on and taking a seat on the couch.
He didn't sleep the rest of the night.
It felt like an eternity had passed before the sun rose and he heard footsteps coming down the stairway. He knew it was his father and he felt dread. What was he supposed to do? What was he supposed to say? Was he even his father anymore?
He turned slowly, looking over the back of the couch, and just when he saw his father's face, he heard him speak, "Sade, you're up early."