By Robert Nazar Arjoyan
The screaming never didn’t wake me.
When we were all still together, it happened practically every single night. Olin would shriek, slam open the door, and stomp those cute little fucking feet of his over to our bed, yowling through the dark. Well, just my bed now. I guess that’s one happy thing about divorce.
I told Olin’s mom we shouldn’t co-sleep, but did she listen? God knows I hardly heeded her anymore. Sheil and I learned we were better to each other as husband and wife rather than mother and father. Sometimes that can happen. No one ever prepared me for it.
The walls of our- of my house are old and wafery. They are a home inside a home, refuge to so many God-knows-whats, and it was with limpid simplicity that Olin’s midnight screeching skated across the square footage to rap on my sleeping skull.
“It’s OK, honey, go back to sleep,” I slurred out, burying myself under the pillow. Of its own volition, my right hand slithered along the sheets to just have a touch of her. Grabbing only a tangle of nothing, I empathized with Olin as he swung open his door and trudged toward me. We were both thick with hard habit.
Sleep was quick to reclaim me, though, and I didn’t stir again until I felt a fist kneading the base of my back.
“Olin, please stop,” I said, employing the slightest shove.
My eyes shot wide open and despite the heavy duvet, a freeze rolled through me. It wasn’t my day with Olin, you see.
He was with his mom.
What exactly was beginning to straddle me?
It wasn’t the pajamaed frame of my son which I had grazed, but something bristly and hot and writhing. I recalled the footsteps then, the rhythm of their approach totally off. They weren’t soft or pudgy, they were craggly and scaly, sharp clicks on hardwood.
The thing sat on top of me, mounting just like Olin.
Son of a bitch, I thought, thinking it my last, this was the hobgoblin! Olin’s ghoul, the source of his sustained screeching. It couldn’t be anything else, so persistently he’d fretted over it, so intricately he’d described it. Sheil would durably listen to his protests, going so far as to invoke spells of protection, which didn’t really help the cause, while I chose to flick an impatient wrist at the topic.
I looked into the creature’s meltable face as it shifted from one aspect to another, a never settling permutation that scared the shit out of me. But, beneath the ripple and roil of its quick mask, I detected a strain of sadness. For an instant’s instant, the war of its visage stopped and reflected me back to me. From its rattling throat gargled a secret, the throbbing truth split both ways.
We missed Olin.
Next day, there was no trace of the troll, not in my room or under the bathroom sink, reported by my son as the gnome’s nest. And yet, when the mournful scream of the shambling imp breached my ears around two in the morning, I’d be a liar if I told you it woke me.
No, I was up, waiting to be a little less goddamn lonesome.
* * *
Robert Nazar Arjoyan was born into the Armenian diaspora of Glendale, California. Aside from an arguably ill-advised foray into rock n roll bandery during his late teens, literature and movies were the vying forces of his life. Naz graduated from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts and now works as an author and filmmaker. Find him at arjoyan.com