He was hungry. He was always hungry. The pain in his stomach was enough to make him not think about the pain of eating. His malformed and crooked teeth would cut his lips and even his cheeks when he chewed. Most of the time that was enough to make him ignore the constant growling in his stomach. Most of the time… but not now. His hunger was too much, the pain driving out all other thoughts. Plus, he could smell his prey.
It drove him nearly insane. Time after time, they came here. To his home. To where he and his remaining brothers and sisters tried to live in peace. They kept coming. They never left him alone. And when he could take it no more, that is when he dined on flesh.
He slowly tracked the two boys. It was hard to see them – the moon was full and the light hurt his eyes. Father had tried to make them stronger, tried to take away the glow. But it didn’t work. And now they had taken away Father and no one would ever fix his eyes. He and his siblings were fated to live in constant pain, constant hunger. Their short stature and misshapen heads dooming them to forever haunt the woods.
“I’m telling you I caught one,” he was saying enthusiastically. “They’re real. Nate and I caught a real, live, Melon Head. You told me I was being silly, but they exist and now I have proof.”
Alexander’s father rolled his eyes, but played along. His son was 13, which was far too old in his opinion to believe in these types of things, but he did believe so…“OK son, show me where the mutant is,” he said as he followed his son towards the basement door.
His son had told him about Melon Heads just last week. Apparently, they were quite the local urban legend. A deranged man, living alone in the woods, had kidnapped some women and kept them as slaves, forcing them to have babies. Most of the babies were stillborn, and almost all of the rest died within weeks, but there were a few that survived. Those that did had various horrible mutations, but they all shared two common traits: they needed human flesh to survive and they had large, melon-shaped heads with eyes that gave off a soft green glow. While many women had gone missing over the years – just like in every city across America – there was no police corroboration of the legend. It only lived on in the minds of the local middle school students.
Reaching the door, he paused briefly. There was a chance Alexander and Nate had caught something in the woods. They were obviously playing a joke on him, but a wild animal could be dangerous. There was the chance of rabies if nothing else.
“Alexander,” he said grabbing his son’s arm. “Did you bring something living into the basement? I know you like to play jokes, but if there is a wild animal there, I need to know. It could be dangerous.”
His son looked up at him. In that brief moment he seemed to be no longer a child with an imagination that sometimes got the best of him. “Dad,” he whispered, “it’s real. We tied him up and Nate is downstairs guarding him.” The look on his face sent a chill down his father’s spine.
He wasn’t sure what his son had, but now he was worried. Something was in his basement. He moved his son out of the way and headed down first. “Don’t turn on the lights dad. The lights hurt his eyes.”
“Nate,” Alexander whispered, “I can see eyes following us. Stay calm and aim carefully.” The boys slowly turned and leveled their Airsoft guns at their target.
His body ached from where the pellets had hit him. He also had bruises from where the boys had kicked him after he fell down. The pain was made worse by the rope that virtually cocooned his body. But he didn’t mind. Life was pain. The only thing that stopped it was feeding – and then only briefly. Besides, it was his turn to be the decoy. Everyone had to take a turn, and this time it was his.
He stared at the one left to guard him. He pictured sinking his teeth into the soft flesh of his neck. He thought of the smell of slowly roasting him. Not too long, of course. Just enough to burn the hairs off – the meat would be warm and bloody. His stomach growled. Patience. He would feed soon. His siblings would too.
“Nate,” Alexander’s father called out.
“Over here,” came the reply. Low and serious with a hint of fear. A slight pause and then, “He’s staring hard at me.”
Alexander followed his father and ran past him when he got to the bottom of the stairs. “See, dad? See?”
His father could see well even though the lights were off. There was a creature the boys had. It was roughly their size and wrapped in rope. A soft glow came from its eyes.
And then another glow bathed the room. The three of them looked at the sliding glass door of the walkout basement. They saw eyes. Many, many, pairs of glowing eyes.
Nate let out a scream. “Alexander,” his father started slowly. “Take Nate and go upstairs. Close the basement door and call 911. No matter what you hear, keep the door closed.”
He was still tied up and still hungry. But now a smile spread across his face showing sharpened teeth anchored at strange angles in his mouth. He knew his hunger would soon be gone. His siblings were here. Everyone would eat well tonight.
Hours later Alexander’s mother and sisters came home. There was a soft glow in the house waiting for them.
Kevin Mathews is a married father of three living in Ohio.