Writer: Hunter Eden
Weird Tales Story: Selected Views of Mt. Fuji, With Dinosaurs (Issue TBD 2008)
Writer Bio: Hunter Eden is a Nashville-based writer of weird fiction. He recently finished an alternate-historical mob novel, Mr. Incan Empire, currently represented by the Faye Swetky Agency. Hunter lives with a lone cat, “Hellcat” Maggie Grimalkin, works at a hotel, and has gone unthreatened by bipedal saber-toothed tigers for most of his adult life. He welcomes comments at <smokingmirror4444 at gmail.com>
When I was in first grade, I had three major demons in my life and I mean that literally. I guess I’d probably be showing my age if I say that while my classmates were having nightmares about Freddy Krueger and a troubled Dutch-American youth named Jason Voorhees, hockey masks and bladed gloves didn’t figure into my world. All my bogeymen were homemade, so there was no comfort of the “Relax, it’s only a movie” sort. Let’s start with Mr. Evil Eyes, since he bothered me the least.
Mr. Evil Eyes was just a thermos by daylight, and he sat on the top shelf of my closet. He was kind of an ugly thermos my parents bought in the Ã¢â‚¬Ëœ70′s for some camping trip, with pieces of clear orange plastic by the handles. At sundown, my nightlight lit up those pieces of plastic, and they became the glowing, flame-colored eyes that gave him his name. Mr. Evil Eyes didn’t do much aside from sit and stare at me, and I realized soon enough that if I just closed my closet door, he’d be shut out.
Of course, that couldn’t be done with the Monkey Man, Demon #2. He came to me in a dream, looking like a hairless, albino chimpanzee in human clothing.
One evening my parents left me at school. No phone call — they just didn’t pick me up, and at sundown, after all the teachers and other students had left, the Monkey Man took me by the hand and with a broad, ape-like grin told me he wanted to show me something. He led me to the auditorium, where a crowd of deformed, ghoulish creatures had gathered to watch a play. I don’t remember what the play was about, just that the ghouls and the Monkey Man would get up and howl at it, dancing in the aisles and tittering at each other. By the time I woke up and realized my parents had picked me up and I wasn’t being forced to watch some children’s theater answer to The King in Yellow it was too late. The Monkey Man had visited me, and I would never forget him. But unlike Rab, at least he only visited me once.
One night, after having been put to bed, I sat up because I heard a growling song emanating down the hallway. As I sat up a bipedal saber-toothed tiger with eyes as red as brake lights sauntered into my room. He was singing about eating me, and while I wish I could remember more of the song, it definitely contained the following lyrics: And whenever I’m hungry, I eat him!
This was especially terrible because it implied that not only was Rab (who I named after the raspy, growling sound of his voice) going to devour me that night, but he’d done it before too, like the agent of some weird hell for Pleistocene Buddhists. I pictured myself in his pantry, right next to the organic corkscrew noodles and the parsley, and as I screamed his jaw unhinged like a snake’s and he began to swallow me whole — feet first.
Then something happened, and he died, slumping over into a conveniently-placed high school letter jacket. I immediately ran downstairs, where the babysitter sat watching TV.
“What’s the matter?” he asked.
“When are my Mommy and Daddy getting home?” I demanded.
“Did you have a nightmare?”
No, you fucking douchebag, I almost got eaten by a goddamn saber-toothed tiger. But I guess you can’t expect a teenage kid to understand these things.
Rab became more than just a monster to me — he was like an evil god, an anti-Santa Claus who brought me nightmares in a big gray sack. I went through a period where I had night terrors that always ended in a cougar-like yowl. I attributed this to Rab, and I knew that when that yowl began that it stood for a turning point in my nightly battle with him. If I could just last through this last attack –
Rab diminished as I grew older, of course. I had my last dream about him in second grade. It had something to do with a lamb wandering near a cave, and Rab trying to lure her in to maul and devour. He had grown to the size and width of a bear (he never was a svelte bogeyman — organic corkscrew noodles notwithstanding). Even at the age of seven, that nightmare was enough to get me calling for my Mom and Dad.
I forgot about my bogeymen for a while as I got older and stupider things started to scare me. I think in the end, though, that maybe I owe each of them some gratitude. More than Dracula, more than the mummy, maybe even a little more than Cthulhu Himself, Rab, the Monkey Man and Mr. Evil Eyes introduced me to horror, made me think about it as something aside from shadows in the closet. Sometimes, to fool myself, I would pretend they were my imaginary friends, and that all the haunting was just some sort of game we played, that in the end they had my best interests at heart, and maybe even liked me.
This past October, I made my first professional sale to City Slab magazine and realized the difference between terror and tough love.
To Rab, Mr. Evil Eyes and the Monkey Man — wherever you are and whoever you’re eating, glaring at or introducing to hidden worlds between After School Special and Abdul Alhazred — thanks for everything. I couldn’t have done it without you guys.