House of the Impathegens
House of the Impathegens
By Lucy Bray, age 13
Dumbarton Middle School
© 2022 by the author
“Exactly fifty years ago today, the Impathegens came to Earth for the last time. As you may already know, the Impathegens were slimy, gray creatures, about ten feet tall with curved black spots. They could smell the blood of humans and creep into their homes, ripping the weapons out of the hands of parents standing guard outside their children’s windows and doors. The only way to kill these monsters was to expose them to the moonlight. But no need to worry, children, that was fifty years ago, and we have sirens and task forces and all kinds of defense if they ever come back - which they won’t. Class dismissed.”
The cool night air engulfed Connor as he stepped out of the school building and onto the smooth, concrete path home. The night’s deep, red, blood moon was barely visible through the thick clouds coating the sky. As he walked farther from the school, the shouts of his classmates faded, and the street was engulfed in an eerie quiet. Flickering televisions and barely visible white lights could be seen through the windows of the nearly identical townhouses on either side of the street. Connor walked quickly and silently through the neighborhood, eager to be home in time for his friend Nathan's Halloween party. In less than fifteen minutes, he slipped through the back door of his house, the warm light and smell of pumpkin bread greeting him.
“Mom?” he shouted.
“I’m in the kitchen!” He followed the sound of her voice, and was pulled into a hug of fuzzy purple turtlenecks and smooth black hair as soon as he stepped into the room.
“Take a bite of this before you head upstairs.” Pumpkin bread was shoved into his face. The bread was warm and soft before a tangy, soapy taste stuck to his tongue.
“You used too much baking soda again!” he exclaimed. His mom frowned.
“Why don’t you go put on your Halloween costume now.” Connor smirked and grabbed his costume.
“You barely changed,” Connor’s mom said, pursing her lips as Connor came down the stairs a few minutes later. He was still wearing the same white, long sleeve shirt that he’d been wearing earlier, with “Fresh” in graffiti letters on the front paired with ripped jeans. The gold chain he’d added made his chestnut brown eyes shine, and his knotted black hair was matted down with a jean bucket hat.
“I’m a rapper.” He pointedly lifted his gold chain up to the light.
“Alright. Have fun and make smart decisions. Be home by midnight!” Connor smiled and headed out the door, typing the address into his phone.
“This can’t be right….,” Connor muttered to himself. He was standing on a corner, blue light from his phone illuminating his face. It was eight o’clock, and the sun had already set - it was nearly pitch black outside. “Maybe if I go back this way…” He lifted his head and walked back down the street he had come, but the map changed its route yet again. He should’ve been at the party twenty-five minutes ago. As he walked down the new route, zooming in and out on the map, a flicker of shadow caught in his peripheral vision. His head snapped to the side, his gaze casting across the street. His eyes caught on a tall, misshapen shadow looming behind the wooden gate in a neighbor’s yard, but he blinked and the shadow was gone. Just a trick of the streetlights.
Finally, Nathan’s house came into view at the end of the street. It was painted gray, surrounded by a peeling, white picket fence, and one of the windows was shattered. Nathan’s gonna be in so much trouble for that, he thought to himself. As he approached, Connor was surprised he couldn’t hear music, or at least voices as he got closer still. Now that he thought about it, most of his walk had been deathly silent. Trick-or-treaters usually came out around this time.
As he came to the fence, he hesitated with an uneasy feeling in his stomach. This house is weird. This neighborhood is weird. This whole thing feels off. I should just go home. He took out his phone, but before he could take more than a few steps away from the house, he heard the rustle of a bush and the faintest whisper.
He swiveled back around and scanned the yard, eyes wide and alert. Squinting, he noticed a hint of color peeking out from inside a bush. Hesitantly, he crept toward the faded green leaves.
“Hello?” Connor’s voice cut through the silence.
A girl with curly, black hair and olive skin popped out from the top of the bush, shaking. Connor immediately recognized her.
“Shhh….,” Anya put a hand to his mouth and slowly pulled him behind the bush. Her wide hazel eyes darted around the yard before she ducked below the shrub.
“What happened?” Connor whispered tentatively.
“The Impathegens… they’re back.” A shriek sounded from within the house, and they both went still. Anya looked at Connor.
“We need to go in there.”
“Are you crazy? Did you hear that?” he exclaimed.
“We need to help whoever that was. The house has been taken over, and there were at least twenty people here before the Impathegens came. And what are we supposed to do anyway? The streets are empty - we’re like sitting ducks if we walk home alone in the dark.”
“We’ll just sit here until they’re gone!”
“We know there’s at least one at this house. If we sit here all night, about ten more hours, surely they’ll find us. We need to be on the move, but also stay hidden,” Anya explained. He shook his head.
“We’re staying here. I’m not getting the blood sucked out of me tonight.”
“Speak for yourself,” Anya said, and started walking towards the front door. No way I’m staying out here alone all night, he thought.
“Fine, I’ll come with you.” He walked up to the door and stood next to her, but they were both silent, making no move for the doorknob. Connor looked at Anya, the fear setting in. She still gazed ahead, eerily still. He put a hand on her shoulder and moved his trembling fingers to the door.
At the lightest touch, the chipped wooden door opened into a hazy room. A long, wooden table sat in the center, mismatched chairs along either side. Rotted food rested on plates across it, only a few having been touched. The walls were empty but for an image of a bird flying from its nest on the far wall. Immediately to their left and right were framed doorways.
Connor opened his mouth to ask where they should go, but Anya immediately clamped a hand to his mouth and frantically shook her head. Connor put up his hands and pointed to the passage on their right. Anya lowered her hand and began that way.
This room had walls coated in sticky, gray goo, a colorful wallpaper barely visible beneath it. An interrogation lamp hung from the ceiling in the center of the room, shining on the dust hanging in the air.
As Anya stepped across the thin, blue rug in the center of the room, a plume of dirt was kicked up and a cough racked through her body. Connor jumped at the sound, landing with a pound on the floor. Before they could realize their mistake, a sound like a low siren echoed through the room.
Connor slowly looked up at Anya, body trembling and brow scrunched in fear. She lifted her foot to step towards him, but the goo had dripped onto the floor and kept her stuck in place. She tried to pull away but slipped and fell face first onto the ground, her whole body now glued there. In a blink, the goo melted over her entire body and pulled her away, disappearing from the room with Anya inside it.
Connor stood parlyzed in shock. The whole room shook before him, and the edges of his sight began to fade. Before he could come to his senses, his vision went dark.
A series of taps and nudges on his shoulder forced Connor awake. His eyes snapped open to a pitch black. He could hear someone breathing beside him and quickly sat up. The person got close enough that he could feel their breath on his neck.
“This is Nathan. We’re in a storage unit under the stairs. I heard a cough, found you knocked out on the floor, and brought you here. You need to be quiet and stay here.”
Connor sat still for a moment, processing all that had just happened. He felt sick when he thought of Anya.
“I was with Anya and she got taken by some sort of weird goo. I can’t just leave her. We have to find her.”
“No, we need to stay here, or we’ll end up just like her. I hate to say it, but Anya’s probably dead,” Nathan said.
“No. They can smell our blood. They’ll find us eventually if we stay in one place. We have to be on the move.”
“Fine, go. But I’m staying here.”
“Please, come with me. You’ll die.”
“You will die. I’m staying here.”
“Fine. Maybe we’ll still see each other at the end of this.” Connor undid the door’s latch and crept out into the stairwell. Skylights above framed a dark night sky full of bright stars. It was lighter than before, and he guessed there was about an hour until daylight.
Unsure where to start, he took the path straight ahead of him, up the stairwell lined with photos of Nathan and his family, the frame of each one shattered. He made his way cautiously to the upwards, careful not to make a sound. When he reached the top, he turned into the first room on his right - Nathan’s room.
The green door covered in posters was left wide open, showcasing shelves pushed against green walls and a bed covered in a blue mattress. As he took a few more steps into the room, a small closet with a closed accordion door could be seen on the wall across from Nathan’s bed. Slowly, Connor tiptoed over. He rested his hand on the handle and… a loud ringing burst from his pocket. He gasped in surprise and fumbled for his phone. He pulled it out of his pocket, but it fell to the floor in his unsteady hands. He dropped down to pick it up, when the room was suddenly cast in a wide shadow. Connor looked up to see a large figure blocking the light from the hallway.
He clenched his phone as the figure drew closer. A smooth, slimy tail flicked out from beneath the creature and its curvy, spotted body supported a square-like head.
Frantically searching, Connor found a plastic sword buried under the bed. He pulled it out and held it forward, his body backed up against the wall. The beast towered over him, and he held up the sword, stabbing at the beast, harder and harder as its skin continued to hold strong against the weak blade. As the creature reached out its rounded fingers, Connor held out the sword as far as he could and closed his eyes.
Connor slowly cracked open his eyes. Rubble littered the floor, surrounding the body of the Impathegen. Moonlight flooded into the room, shining directly onto the alien. It’s dead skin was crumpled on the floor, and blood gushed out of it, like a balloon filled with blood. Standing on the roof, a sledgehammer in hand, Anya stood. She dropped the hammer to the floor and wrapped Connor in a hug. The monster was dead. Tears of relief pushed the debris out of Connor’s eyes,
“It’s over,” she said. “The IPT has locked down and surrounded the area. That was the last of them within a ten mile radius. We’re alive. We made it.” The two of them walked down the stairs, exhausted but relieved.
“Wait. Nathan was hiding under these stairs.” Connor rushed over to the hidden door and undid the lock. He found Nathan curled into a ball in the corner, tears staining his face.
“It’s over. We killed the last one.” Nathan looked up, hopefully.
“Really?” he said.
“Yeah.” Connor held out his hand, and Nathan reached for it, pulling himself up. They walked, arms around each other, to the front door, and accepted Anya into their embrace. They flung open the door and, together, walked out into the cool light of early morning.