I was fifteen when it first came, old enough to know it wasn’t normal and young enough to know I’d be committed if I told. Half asleep, feet hanging slightly off my uncomfortable mattress. It didn’t come from under my bed but right through the door, all rambling limbs and skeleton knuckle cracks, a deliberate sort of limp as it nudged its way across the carpet, closer to the bed, closer to me until its face loomed inches from mine. Gaunt cheeks running with goblin wax and dabs of yellow sweat, an alien green in the dim blue light of my alarm clock. Its eyes betrayed sadness and hunger, and for a moment I thought this was the end, thought it would kill me.

It spat out a sticky gray corpse tongue, dead tissue, cut into pieces and reassembled with industrial staples. Glittering like cheap jewelry, too loud for my eyes. Something viscous, more mucus than saliva, dripped onto my face as it drew in close, and I felt a strange intimate pressure as it licked me, chin to forehead. Its staples painted tiny shaving cuts in my skin as they raked over me. A few pinpricks of blood bubbled to the surface, mingling with spit and my cold, terrified sweat, stinging like too much sunscreen. Those sad eyes searched my trembling form and, wordlessly, my visitor left the way it came.

Every night after that, the creature returned. It always came just before dawn, when a hint of blue light trickled over the horizon and bled through my thin curtains, enough light to keep me awake trembling for hours. I would have written off Stapletongue, as I eventually named my visitor, as some kind of night terror were it not for the dry film of its slime and the little cuts I would find every morning, already scabbing over. My parents were far too busy to notice, and I didn’t have friends, so I came to accept Stapletongue as just a part of my life.

Until three days ago, that is.

Three days ago, I slept through the night for the first time in seven years. I woke up with a clean face, no shaving cuts. The night after that I had no visitor, nor did I have one last night.

But tonight I am awoken by something falling over in my apartment. In the dim light of dawn I can see something approaching me. And although I have to squint through my terror, and my paralyzed neck does not provide the best view, I can see enough of the great lumbering thing coming for me, and I know for a fact that it is not my Stapletongue.