Nurturing the Gremlin

by James Hill

The thief left it behind. We found it nestled in amongst piles of our papers that were spread out across the lounge room floor. It sat mewling and squirming in the space where our TV used to be, its tiny black body covered in a thin sheen of mucus, its eyes not yet open but turning to us instinctively upon our approach.

For weeks afterwards Alex would sit with it in his lap, a dark expression on his face as he stroked its fur. The gremlin would sniff blindly in Alex’s direction, its tiny snout opening to reveal buds of white, sharp teeth emerging from its gums. It would nuzzle his hand, even as Alex seethed.

“It’s bad enough the bastard took our stuff,” Alex fumed, “but why did he have to smash all of our pictures too? And pissing on our clothes! The dress I bought you for our anniversary… What type of animal would do that?”

I tried to move on as best I could, but Alex retreated more and more into the house. Many nights I would find him laid out on the couch, the gremlin bigger now, stretched out on his chest as he perused a catalogue on home security.

“Come out with me for a few hours,” I would implore. “We won’t go far, just for a few drinks down the road.” Whenever I reached out to touch Alex, the gremlin would hiss at me, baring its ever growing fangs, its black fur bristling. Eventually I stopped making suggestions and would leave the house in silence.

We acquired more and more elaborate security devices, all kinds of locks, bars and alarms. The air inside the house grew stale from lack of ventilation—Alex would insist on keeping the windows closed at all times. Nothing brought him peace. The only thing that seemed to thrive in such an oppressive environment was the gremlin, now the size of a golden retriever and growing ever more active by the day.

The first time I asked Alex to get rid of the gremlin he was ready with all kinds of excuses.

“We can’t just dump it in the street, and if we take it to the pound, they’ll put it to sleep. Besides, you always wanted a pet.”

The gremlin wasn’t ours. It belonged to Alex; there was no denying that fact.

Alex stopped making excuses for the gremlin right around the same time he stopped going to work. The gremlin started shedding; it left traces of its coarse black fur on everything it touched. The fur covered our couches and clung to every article of clothing in our closets. Its fur had a way of penetrating the fabric of my clothing and piercing the pores of my skin. It left an angry, red rash all over Alex’s face, neck and hands. For the first few days he called in sick to work; then he stopped calling in at all.

The final straw came late one night, when the gremlin crawled into bed with us. It pushed its snout under the covers and slipped between the sheets. I was on the cusp of sleep when the insidious sound of suckling startled me. I threw back the covers to find the gremlin nursing at Alex’s chest. Its sharp white incisors had chewed a hole into Alex’s flesh and its tongue lapped at the leaking blood.

I let out a scream and the gremlin lunged at me, its stocky body knocking me from the bed. I switched on the lights as Alex awoke.

“Alex, that fucking thing is feeding off you!”

His eyes refused to meet mine; instead he rubbed at the bite marks etched into his flesh. His chest was a patchwork of puncture marks, scabs and faded scars. It had been many weeks since Alex had let me touch him, and now I knew why.

He didn’t say a word as he watched me pack my things.

“Let’s get out of here Alex, come with me,” I pled, but I was already gone to him. The gremlin jumped into his arms, Alex swayed as he tried to hold the creature’s ever expandi ng bulk.

I didn’t look back as I left, but I could hear Alex whispering to the gremlin, his voice low and soothing as it growled and gurgled back at him. It made me sick to realise that the gremlin was the only thing that gave Alex any kind of comfort. With everything else taken from him, the gremlin was all he had left.

The End