At first the girl joked that either her phone is haunted or her dog is a sorcerer. Both explanations could probably get her on a talk show, but she knows better now. It’s Ghouli. It’s always been Ghouli. It’s like she said to the police – she put it on the fireplace mantle herself. Twizzler would not stop barking at it even though it wasn’t ringing. It was well out of his reach. Then, like magic, POOF, phone was gone, only to be found days later, boring a hole under the fridge as it disintegrated into some kind of acidic ectoplasm. Ghouli creeps, sight unseen and it does not like the taste of electronics. Then the barking stopped too.
Twizzler has been missing for days. She knows where he went, but who would believe that a slimy, mutant, octolandshark ate her dog?
Losing Twizzler was the last straw. Jumping into her mom’s minivan, the girl speeds off to the hardware store down the street, squealing turn into the lot and does a terrible job parking in her rush. Rummaging through the glove compartment, she wrenches a pair of giant sunglasses and slams them onto her face. She flings the door open and throws her hood over her head and stalks in. NO ONE can know what’s going on.
“Oh, hi Ricki!” greets a young man in a home hardware vest. Huh. Well, there goes any chance of being discreet.
Lowering her sunglasses a fraction she turns to the young man. “Why are you at the hardware store?” She snarls.
“Uh, I work here?” He replies motioning to the vest.
“Whatever. You never saw me here, Noah. You tell anyone, you’re a dead man.” She brushes past him, walking with purpose towards a certain section of the store. Wooden mouse traps, sticky paper mouse traps, electric mouse traps, rat traps, skunk traps…
“Where the hell are the bear traps?” She wonders aloud.
“Why the hell do you need a bear trap?” Noah asks, strolling to her side.
“Go away, Noah.”
“I mean, we live in the suburbs, and I really don’t think Mrs. Esposito’s chihuahua deserves an end like that. Little bugger is annoying I’ll give you that. You should really just talk to her. She makes the best churros.” He rambles.
“Shut up, Noah.”
“Testy. What? Got less than 300 likes on your latest instagram pic? Hashtag too-pretty-2-care?” He teases. Turning on her heel, she starts to storm off in the direction of the pest poison. He grabs her arm, making her spin around, hood falling down at her shoulders. Her eyes stare daggers at him. “Hey, I’m just kidding.”
“I need to kill something.” She whispers.
“Kill something!” Noah yells. The limited shoppers in the aisle shift their gaze to the teens. She whips her hood back up over her head. He doubles over with laughter. “Why do you need to kill something?”
“Something ate Twizzler.” She whispers.
“Oh, man. I’m so sorry,” he says, sincerely. “Do you know what?
“Alligator? I just read this thing about them in sewers…”
She shakes her head. Contemplates telling her friend about the monster creeping the streets of their cul de sac. She thinks better of it.
“Never mind, yeah it was a gator.” She says waving his concern off.
“Ricki, what’s going on?”
“Nothing.” She says, rushing to the exit. This time he wasn’t able to catch up.
Sitting in her room at her house, Rikki ponders various ways to catch that dog murdering mothertrucker. Maybe she could electrocute it. Fill the bath then chuck a hair dryer in. A bear trap would have been the best, painful and then she finish the job.
“Ricki! Someone at the door for you.” Calls her mom from downstairs. She bounds down the steps and once she sees who it is, she quickly jumps outside and silently shuts the door behind her.
“Noah. What do you want?” She asks on the porch.
“You didn’t answer your phone.” He says waving his phone in his hand as if she didn’t understand.
“And that’s a good reason for you to come knocking on my front door?”
“Maybe. You never and I mean NEVER not answer your phone.”
“Well, thanks for checking in. My phone’s destroyed, I need to get a new one.”
“Destroyed how? What the hell is going on with you?” He asks steering her away form the porch light. She swipes at the mosquitoes swirling around her head.
“Nothing is going on.” She says smacking an especially tenacious bug.
“Come on, you can trust me.” Noah prods. Thinking back on past events, Noah has been a trustworthy friend. She steers him onto the rocking bench on the porch, sits next to him and lets out a heavy sigh.
“I’ve been seeing things,” she starts. “Well, something in particular.”
“What is it?”
“Yeah, you know. Big, slimy, multi limbed, lots of teeth, eats everything.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“I thought I was crazy. I started noticing it when we were at school. I kept getting this feeling, of being watched, and that’s when the animals started showing up.”
“Yeah. You know how I have to check the filter in the pool?” She asks. “Well, dead animals have been showing up in the filter, mangled, half eaten.”
“That’s beyond messed.”
“But your conclusion is that it was a monster that was doing it? Maybe it’s some creep’s sick joke?” Noah supplies.
“How do you know?” The scepticism can’t be left out of his voice.
“I’ve seen him do it.”
“Well I don’t know if it’s a him. I call it, Ghouli.”
“Ghouli,” he breathes. He keeps repeating her, trying to understand.
“I saw him take Liberty’s cat the other day. I was in my room, it has a perfect view of the back yard. Mittens was strolling by the edge of the pool when suddenly something in the pool launched out. Its slimy arm latched around cat and dragged it away, but the weird thing was I couldn’t see it in the water. It just popped out.” After a long moment of silent deliberation… or judgement, Rikki ventures… “So…?”
“I believe you. If this thing is what killed Twizzler, it’s personal. I loved that dog more than you.”
“So how do we get it?”
“Tomorrow night. My mom has a roast chicken in the fridge we could use as bait, which is fine and dandy but we have nothing to catch it in. You don’t sell bear traps at the hardware store.”
“Don’t worry about the bear trap, I’ve got something better in mind.”
“You do.” Rikki says utterly not convinced.
“Ye of little faith, give me some credit. I’m positive you will find my alternative just as good.” He says with a knowing grin.
Tomorrow could have come quick enough. The sun has set and Rikki Harper is sitting on her porch in a hoodie and sweatpants and a plastic bag with roast chicken.
“Where have you been?” She whisper screams at Noah as he climbs the steps of her house.
“I was getting the supplies.” He replies motioning to his father’s beat up pick-up. “Nice outfit. I’m sure Monique would love to how the mighty have fallen.”
“I didn’t want my nice clothes to be covered in blood.” she replies, heading towards the truck. Lowering the hatch reveals a tangle of ropes, metal and caging. “What the hell is this?”
“A croc trap.”
It looks pretty heavy duty. Complicated.
“Okay then! Where should we put it?”
“Why don’t we put it in the woods just beyond your pool. Lure it out.”
Two hours. It takes two hours to move and assemble the damn thing. Now, flushed and exhausted the friends wait in the pool shed for Ghouli to come. They hang the chicken from a tree. The wind keeps blowing the chicken, making it look like it’s dancing.
“Do you think it’s going to come?” Noah asks.
“Patience. It’s always hungry”
Before either of them can say anything else, a ripple forms on the glass surface of the pool. Then right before their eyes a slimy disembodied arm emerges from the pool, then another and another until Ghouli has risen onto the pool deck. Not a single drop of water can be found.
“Holy sh–” Noah whispers and Ghouli turns to the shed towards them… and the chicken. They duck. Time stretches for eternity. Ghouli moves towards the shed silent. It sniffs the air, and stops at the hanging chicken. It trudges on. Rikki peers through the crack in the panelling and signals that the monster is moving towards the bait. Closer, closer, closer it gets. One more step.
And a shriek that could not be unheard, shattered the night.