I don’t remember where exactly I was driving, if anywhere at all. I believe I was going down some lonely, barren road; why I had chosen to go there, I can’t recall.
Every once in a while I’d see a farm in the distance, or a couple cows grazing on some tall grass, but for the most part I was coasting down an empty road in an empty place.
It was about three in the morning, I think. A little bit of sunlight peeked over the horizon, but it was dark enough for me to keep my headlights on. I can’t help but regret it now; maybe if I had left them on, I wouldn’t have seen him, just run him over and let myself forget the pointless drive.
There was a little, rural neighborhood further down the road. Of course, neighborhood may be a bit too generous a term. The tiny community was not much more than a couple tumbledown shacks and maybe a few rusty pickup trucks. I didn’t see anybody out and about.
Aside from Mr. Smother and his victim, that is.
About halfway through the locality, my headlights illuminated something – a man, standing in the middle of the road. I stepped on the brakes a few feet before running the poor guy down. I waited for a moment to see if he would move out of the way, but he didn’t. He couldn’t.
Exasperated, I got out of my car to go talk to him. It was then that I saw what the darkness of twilight had obscured.
The man was clad in a worn, ugly, brown trench coat, seemingly stitched together from discolored patches of leather. A pair of black slacks a couple sizes to large hung around his waist. His oddest garment, however, was a crude burlap mask, with two poorly-cut, circular holes where the eyes should be.
“Hello,” I said, tapping him on the shoulder. He was violently shuddering, and his hands were curled into fists. “Hello?” I repeated, patting his shoulder a second time.
The man moved now. He tried to speak, but the burlap mask muffled his words to the point of incomprehension. His arms were shaking even more than the rest of his body, almost looking as if they were being held in place. For the first time, he lifted his head.
Through the eye-holes of the mask, I saw a pair of eyes, half-dead and half-open.
The man’s erratic jerking and behavior were beginning to unnerve me, so I began to back away. His voice grew more urgent, sounding like a desperate plea, but I still couldn’t understand him through the mask. What happened next, I cannot begin to understand.
The man drew a distressed, futile gasp and fell face-first into the gravel below him. He wasn’t breathing. I had just witnessed this man, whom I did not know, keel over and die a less than a meter from me. That was grounds for any man to be frightened, and I don’t deny that I was.
It was what happened next, however, that sent me into the spiral of fear and paranoia that I live in today.
The dead man’s head began to twitch slightly, turning left and right. Then the burlap mask itself slipped away from the man’s face and slithered onto the ground.
The trench coat followed in suit, lifting one arm, and then the other, before gliding off. The pants escaped in a similar fashion to the mask, slinking silently off of the man’s legs. I realized that he had already been wearing pants beneath those pants, and a coat for that matter.
It clicked in my mind then; those were not his pants, or his trench coat, or his mask.
My realization came slightly too late, however, as when I returned to reality, I saw that, to my horror, the three pieces of clothing had risen into the air and assembled themselves into a humanoid form.
They were pulled together realistically, worn around some nonexistent body. It looked like some kind of invisible man was wearing them, but I knew that there was no way that could be it.
The eidolic clothes took a step towards me with their baggy black slacks, stopping just before they hit the ground, like there was actually some unseen foot there.
For a moment, that mask and was staring right at me, its hollow, empty eyes set. I was too scared to move. For almost ten seconds, the mask and I stood, motionless, only inches between our faces, and gazed.
Then I tried to run.
Hoping to surprise the uncanny mask, coat, and pants, I turned immediately and ran for my car.
The next moment, I couldn’t breathe, and the scent of burlap filled my nostrils. My mouth and nose were held shut, seizing my breath, trying to suffocate me.
I sensed thoughts forcing their way into my mind. What scared me was that I did not feel that the thoughts were mine.
Mr. Smother, came a taunting thought. Mr. Smother, Mr. Smother, Mr. Smother! Don’t let them breathe, Mr. Smother! Don’t let them scream, Mr. Smother! Don’t let them live, Mr. Smother!
I felt something crawling up my arm, but the burlap mask obscured my vision. I shook my hand in an attempt to free myself, but whatever it was just kept wrapping around my forearm.
I turned, trying to breathe, and aligned my face with the eye-holes, only to see the trench coat’s sleeve climbing up my arm. I realized then that it was trying to bind my arms so I couldn’t remove the mask.
I coughed loudly, but the burlap caught it and made it into little more than a muffled rasp. The pants had begun their way up my body, trying to keep my wildly kicking legs in place.
My lack of breath was becoming bothersome, and I soon became lightheaded. This only served to make me even more desperate for escape. I jerked my left arm forward, feeling immense pain in my shoulder. I felt the cuff of the sleeve struggling to keep my wrists in place.
This small victory gave me just the slightest amount of hope. I yanked my elbow into my ribs, and shook my wrist wildly. Finally, I was able to pull me arm free from the sleeve.
The mask was still restricting my breath, and my dizziness grew very, very quickly.
Frantically, I tore my arm free from the other sleeve in one motion and instinctively brought both hands to my face.
Each took a handful of burlap, trying desperately to remove the mask before the trench coat returned.
No, Mr. Smother! What are you doing?
With a feeble cough, I felt unconsciousness approaching very fast. One last burst of strength and adrenaline sent the mask flying off, grasped in one hand. I threw it to the ground in disgust and didn’t hesitate in getting to my car and flooring the gas pedal.
I didn’t stop driving until I ran out of gas.
I don’t know what Mr. Smother was, or where it came from, or why it did, or what it suffocates people for, or anything else. I’m completely at a loss.
I don’t care for now, though.
I’m just glad to be breathing now.
I hope Mr. Smother doesn’t remember me.