Voiders

“I need to scare the hell out of them,” Rachel thought. “It’s the only way to make them stop. Hopefully they’re still young enough to believe Mom’s old delusions.” She led Zach and Erin to the bathroom and watched them brush their teeth. It was annoying to have to watch them go through their bedtime routine every night, but the seven-year-old twins couldn’t be trusted to do it on their own.

Rachel had spent the whole summer picking up piles of her siblings’ dirty clothes and doing their laundry. Back in June, their father had fallen in love with a new woman and gotten rid of Mom. His girlfriend didn’t do any cooking or cleaning, so Rachel had ended up with a load of new chores. It really wasn’t fair.

Dad’s girlfriend didn’t tell stories, either. When her parents first got together, Dad thought Mom’s weird stories were a charming quirk. But later on, her fantasies grew wilder and she drifted farther and farther from reality. So he replaced her with someone who didn’t have any fantasies at all.

As the twins spat out their toothpaste, Rachel took a seat on the toilet. “Guys, after I picked you up from soccer, you left your dirty uniforms on the bathroom floor. Again.”

“We know, we know!” Zach grumbled, retrieving a toy submarine he had left in the tub earlier. Rolling his eyes, he did a falsetto impression of his big sister. “When Dad goes out of town, I’m your babysitter, not your maid.

Erin smacked her brother on the shoulder. His misbehaving had a way of getting them both in trouble. She shoved her hands in the pockets of her robe and did her best to look guilty and apologetic. “We’re sorry. We don’t mean to be brats. We just forgot.”

Rachel sighed. “Picking up after you guys is annoying, but that’s not why you shouldn’t leave clothes on the floor. Did I ever tell you about voiders?”

Zach furrowed his brow, searching his memory to see if this was another story he had been told while he was only half listening. “I don’t think so. What’s a voider?”

“Voiders,” Rachel said, suppressing a grin, “are creatures that live in the walls of old houses like this one, just like rats or spiders. Normally they stay in the dark cavities and don’t bother anyone. But when they smell dirty clothes, they come out and put them on.”

“Why would they do that?” he asked.

“They don’t want you to know they’re monsters, so they disguise themselves. They hide their faces until you get close enough, and then…” She paused dramatically before clapping her hands. “Wham, they strike!”

The twins gasped. “Do they eat you?” Erin asked, her eyes wide.

Rachel shook her head. “They don’t want to eat you. They want to be you. Whenever they catch a kid, they hide them away in the walls, and then take their place in their beds. So stop leaving dirty clothes on the floor… Or the voiders will take you!” Roaring like a monster, she chased the twins down the hall. They darted into their rooms and dove into bed.

“And remember,” Rachel called, “Tyler is coming over tonight, so don’t you dare come out of your rooms! If you interrupt our grownup time, I’ll never take you to the zoo again!” She turned off the hallway lights and went out to the porch to await her boyfriend’s arrival.

It took Zach a few minutes to catch his breath. He calmed himself down by counting the glow-in-the-dark stars on his ceiling. Forty-three, as usual. He pulled a small, white walkie talkie from under his pillow. “Erin?” he said quietly. “You awake? Over.”

“Yeah,” she said. “My heart’s still racing.” She pulled her stuffed dragon closer and gave it a squeeze. “Over.”

“Do you… do you think…”

“That voiders are real?” She laughed. “Nope! It’s just a story so we’ll behave, like Santa or the Booger Man. Over.”

“Oh, that’s good.” Daddy was always trying to get them to behave, too. Maybe that was why he had replaced Mommy with that other woman – so he could make new kids who weren’t such brats. “Well, over and out, I guess…”

He closed his eyes and pulled up the covers. He tried not to think about the voiders, or how hideous a creature that lives in dark spaces in the walls must be. But trying not to think about it just ensured that he couldn’t think about anything else. He was sure he could hear something breathing in the darkness, something scraping across the floor. His eyes popped open. He sat up and stared into the black.

A dark shape passed in front of his nightlight. “It’s not really there,” he thought, picturing how his mother would explain it. “It’s just shadows from outside. Headlights from passing cars, trees in the wind, something like that.” The pile of dirty clothes in the corner begin to move, swaying from side to side. A pair of his jeans stood up and walked across the floor.

He threw back the covers and jumped out of bed. He ran across the hall and banged on Erin’s door. “It’s the voiders! They’re real! Help!”

Erin opened the door, yanking him inside. “What are you doing?” she whispered. “If Rachel catches you out of bed, we’ll both be grounded. I swear, if you make me miss a chance to see the penguins…”

“I’m serious! Voiders are real!”

“Keep it down!” She scanned the hallway for signs of their sister.

“I heard the hot tub running. She’ll be outside all night. She left us alone with a monster!”

Yawning, Erin walked back to bed. “I told you, she’s lying. You just had a bad dream. But if you’re scared, you can sleep on my floor. Just keep the lights off.”

Considering the pile of pajamas, dresses, and costumes Erin had left by her dresser, Zach decided it would be safer to sleep in the closet. He grabbed an extra blanket and her stuffed alligator to use as a pillow and curled up on the closet floor, shutting himself inside. Once he heard the click of the closing bedroom door, he felt safe enough to close his eyes.


He jolted awake. Something was moving. Peering through the closet slats, he watched another Zach walk into the room. The intruder was wearing his shoes, jeans, and black hoodie, but its face was shrouded in darkness.

The voider slowly shuffled towards Erin’s bed. Zach threw open the closet door and bolted across the room. Grabbing Erin’s hand, he pulled her out of bed. She stared at the creature in her brother’s clothes. Where its face should have been was only shadow and a pair of glowing, yellow eyes. Screaming, she tossed a blanket over the voider’s head. They ran past the monster and out to the hall.

They rushed back to Zach’s room and locked the door. Erin grabbed the hockey stick by the bed and held it at the ready. For a moment, everything was silent. The entire house seemed to be holding its breath.

Something like black dust poured under the door. It slid across the floor and into the pile of dirty clothes. The dust poured into a sweater and slacks, taking the shape of a yellow-eyed monster. The voider’s face seemed to tear open, revealing a jagged slit of a mouth and rotting, brown fangs.

Erin swung at the creature’s head. The hockey stick connected with a muffled thud, like hitting a bag of sand. The voider collapsed. The clothes flattened out, apparently empty. Zach took a deep breath and reached for the sweater.

The sleeves sprung forward like snakes, wrapping around his neck. Erin grabbed at the sweater and tried to pull it away, but the jeans kicked her into the wall. Struggling to her feet, she unlocked the door and ran to the laundry room, nearly tripping over a box of soap in the darkness. Pushing over the hamper, she called out, “There’s lots of clothes back here! They’re really filthy! Come get ‘em!”

The voider tossed Zach aside. It ran to the laundry room and dove into the pile of laundry. The closet and cabinet doors slammed open. A cloud of black dust flooded into the room. The voiders shrieked like a swarm of bats, plunging into the clothes.

Zach rushed in and threw open the washer, banging the large, chrome “START” button. They threw armload after armload of screaming cloth into the washing machine until it was jammed full. They slammed the door shut and braced themselves against it. The voiders shrieked and yelled, shaking the machine violently. As the washer filled with water, the sound began to die, until at last, the monsters were silent.

“I think we drowned them,” Erin said.

“Looks like we did,” Zach said. “Hopefully voiders are the kind of monster that stays dead.”

Rachel stepped into the laundry room and turned on the light, furrowing her brow in confusion. She was wearing a robe and had a beach towel wrapped around her hair. “I told you guys to go to bed and not come out! Why are you doing laundry in the dark?”

“It was the voiders!” Zach blurted.

“I thought you were lying again,” Erin said, “but they’re real!”

Rachel shook her head slowly, suddenly feeling guilty. “That was just a story Mom used to tell to get me to clean up. She was always saying crazy stuff, like how hospitals were implanting people with microchips to turn them into cannibals. But scared or not, you guys are supposed to be in bed.” She sighed deeply. “Well, I suppose I can’t punish you for doing chores, even if it is after your bedtime. Just go to your rooms when you’re done.”

She went to the living room and took a seat on the couch, turning on some music and dimming the lights. A few minutes later, her boyfriend Tyler came inside. He had changed out of his swimsuit and into a long sleeved t-shirt and jeans, and was rubbing a towel over his head.

“Hair’s still wet, huh?” Rachel said. “Why don’t you come over here and get me wet, too?”

Tyler sat down and flipped off the lights, tossing his towel aside. Closing her eyes, she leaned forward and let her robe hit the floor. He smelled strange, musty and stale. When she kissed him, his lips felt cold.

She reached out for him, but her hands found only empty air. A shape passed in front of her, a flash of yellow eyes. Hands grabbed her wrists and dragged her into the darkness. She was trapped, jammed into a space so tight she couldn’t move. She opened her mouth to scream, but choked on black dust.

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