Mr. Madfhy

Day 1 

Locked outside in a vicious hailstorm, Brett senses something in the living room window. From his vantage point on the front porch, he sees a man without eyes standing behind the glass, wearing a collared green golf shirt.

“What the hell?” Brett nearly falls off the porch.

Whatever he thought he saw in the window rushes away, leaving a trail of rippling curtain. Then there’s a click, the sound of a lock opening. The door swings open and Mom pulls him inside.

“Brett, get in here! You’re bleeding everywhere.”

Brett stumbles inside. “The door was locked!”

“I know, I know, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to lock it.”

Brett chucks his backpack on the hallway floor. Mom looks frazzled, a mess of concern and curly hair.

“It’s ok, Mom. I’m inside now.”

He notices Mom’s golf shirt. It looks exactly like the one he saw in the window: an ugly fluorescent shade of green. Whatever he thought he saw couldn’t possibly be real. He took some nasty shots to the head during that hailstorm. Enough to make him hallucinate, maybe. At the very least, enough to blur his vision. That had to be Mom in the window, not something else.

“Hey, Mom?”

“Yes, Brett?”

For a moment, he considers asking her about the face in the window, then decides not to bother. “Uh… Do we have any bandages?”

Day 2


Brett wakes up and glances blearily at Jeremy’s bed. Jeremy is still submerged in blankets, wads of bleach blond hair protruding through the top of his comforter.

“Hey, Germ. Did you say something?”

Jeremy, the self-proclaimed “next Eminem.” Last year he bleached his hair and got these ridiculous diamond stud earrings. The little parasite listens incessantly to The Marshall Mathers LP and insists on rapping along. His walls are covered in posters: Tyga, Eminem, J-Lo in some provocative, cleavage-baring pose.

Did Jeremy say something or was that a dream? Must have been a dream. A freaking realistic dream, but a dream just the same. Jeremy had sat up in bed, looked at Brett, and whispered the word, “Mom.” Like he was afraid someone might hear him. Brett had this sense that someone else was in the room watching them. Everything in the dream matched their room perfectly, down to the beat-up nightstand beside Brett’s bed. It was like Jeremy had actually sat up and talked to him.

He looks at Jeremy again, covered in bedsheets.



So he is awake. He must really be sick or something. It’s not like Jeremy to sleep in, especially considering it’s the first day of summer vacation. Normally he’s out the door by now so he can “hang with his bros” or “chill with his shorty.”

“You alright?” Brett drags himself from his bed, feet first into a nest of sour smelling t-shirts.

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

“Why aren’t you up? You sick or something?”

Brett walks over and gives Jeremy a firm shake. Jeremy turns over, revealing some kind of cyst on his scalp. Damn, that’s nasty! Brett crouches down to get a better look, but Jeremy yanks his bedsheets over his head. The sheets release a gust of air. A rank stench – the smell of meat gone bad. Brett tugs the bedsheets off Jeremy’s head. He has to get a better look at that thing. It’s like some kind of tumor sprouting from Jeremy’s hair, blackened at the core, a crown of white pus gleaming at the tip.

“Screw off, Brett!” Jeremy wraps his pillow around his head.

“Damn, Jeremy, what the hell is that thing?”

“I said, screw off!”

At least Jeremy sounds like his normal self. He sure as hell doesn’t look it.

“You got a nasty boil on your head. Like, really nasty.”

“I said leave me alone!”

Jeremy has one of those grating voices. He’s fourteen years old but still manages to sound like a toddler sometimes.

“Fine, whatever.” Brett leaves the bedroom. If Jeremy doesn’t want his help, there’s nothing he can do for him. He’ll tell Mom about the boil. Let her deal with it.

“He’s in the house,” Jeremy says, just before Brett reaches the staircase.

“Who’s in the house?” Brett stands at the top of the stairs, hand on the railing.

“He got too close.”

The kid must be delirious. Probably has a lot to do with that infection on his head.

“You should get Mom to take you to the hospital, dude. I’ll see you later.”

Day 3

“Mom and Dad -”

Brett wakes up and looks at Jeremy’s bed.

“Germ. Did you say something?”

Jeremy is still asleep, mummified in blankets. As far as Brett can tell, the kid hasn’t left the room in about forty-eight hours. Mom and Dad spent last night at a block party across the street. Brett never got the chance to talk to them about Jeremy’s infection. He sent Mom a text, but she didn’t answer back.

He scrambles into a t-shirt and khaki shorts and heads downstairs. This whole thing is getting scary. Jeremy may be a pain in the ass, but it’s not like Brett wants him to die or anything.

He rushes into the kitchen. Mom is sitting at the table, mesmerized by her laptop. Wearing one of her hideously bright golf shirts. This particular shirt is the color of an orange pylon. It reminds Brett of the shirt she wore yesterday. There’s a strange feeling in the kitchen, like someone else left a second before he entered the room.

“Hey, Mom.”

“Oh, hi Brett!” Mom looks up. Her strange smile suggests she isn’t entirely pleased to see him.

“How was the party?” he asks cautiously.

“The party? Oh, you know, it got a little zany. Ken and Leanne are party animals. Dad’s still in bed nursing a hangover.” She laughs, and there’s something unnatural about the sound.

“Cool,” Brett says. It’s like he’s forgotten how to have a natural conversation with her.

“Would you mind making dinner tonight? It’s your father’s day off and I know he won’t want to cook. After all, he’s got to cook for thousands of people every day.” She smiles, and Brett swears he sees the dim silhouette of another face behind her smile. A face he has seen before.

“Yeah, that’s fine.” He stares out the kitchen window. “I tried texting you yesterday.”

“What about? I didn’t get any texts.”

“It’s about Jeremy. He’s been lying in bed for two days. He’s got this huge disgusting sore on his head.”

“Gosh, Brett, you should have called. We would have come home.” Mom sounds like she’s reading a transcript. Saying what a Mom is supposed to say when she finds out one of her kids is seriously ill.

“Yeah, well, you should take him to the hospital. I think he’s really sick.” Brett can’t talk to her anymore. She sounds so fake it’s making him feel sick.

He gets a fleeting thought. Not his own thought. It feels like someone else planted an odd idea in his mind.

Fat old bitch. Hope she gets in an accident on the way there.

Day 4

“Mom and Dad fucking -”

Jeremy sits up in bed, a stiff puppet, eyes fixated on the bedroom door. Someone else is in the room. Brett squints into the blackness – flash – like a camera, illuminating an image for a photograph. He sees a withered white neck and a leering face. Similar to the face in the window, but the features have changed. A powder white complexion and crimson lips, like some freak dressed up as a demented clown. Its eyes bulge, translucent yellow orbs and hungry pupils. Eyes that convey something too impure for human comprehension.


Brett wakes up, fish-slick with moisture. He’s lying on a damp surface, soaked to the mattress. He yanks off his bedsheets and peels himself from a foul smelling puddle. Night sweats? Nope. He pissed himself. Pissed a puddle of fear when he saw that face in the corner of the room. It was like someone switched a lamp on, just long enough for him to see something he wasn’t supposed to.

He got too close. Brett looks over at Jeremy’s bed. Jeremy isn’t there.

Day 5

“Mom and dad fucking hate –”

Jeremy stands up in bed, like he’s suspended by an electric current. He stares at Brett, his complexion bone-pale. There’s a sickness in his expression. This isn’t the disdainful look he reserves for his lame older brother. It’s a look that makes Brett want to shrivel up.

Brett stares back. As he watches, a tumorous balloon swells out the side of Jeremy’s head. The ripe stench of overdue deli meat engulfs the room.

There’s an audible squelch, and the boil collapses in on itself. It’s inhaling, a physical suck. Trying to extract something from Brett’s body. He tenses up, resisting the gluttonous suck. He clamps himself against it, slamming an imaginary cell door, and feels a surge of pain. Not his own pain, but the pain of someone else’s fingers slammed in a doorway.

Brett wakes up with the weariness of an old man. He feels sixty instead of seventeen.

Scrape. The sound of Jeremy opening his clothes drawer, rifling through his tank tops. Slam. The sound of Jeremy closing the drawer, hell-bent on destroying every piece of furniture in the room.

“Jeremy. What happened to you?”

“What do you mean?” Jeremy hops into a pair of baggy basketball shorts. Brett’s seen him wear the stupid things far too often. He’s always got one hand on his waist to keep them from falling off.

“Yesterday –”

“Dude! Why are you watching me dress? You’re weirding me out.”

The tone is vintage Jeremy. It’s almost comforting, but it doesn’t make any sense. Just a day ago he was in bed nursing his own version of the bubonic plague.

“Germ, you were in bed for two days. Now you’re acting like everything’s fine.”

Jeremy scrunches up his face. “Don’t call me Germ! I told you a thousand times not to use that gay-ass nickname.”

“Ok, but what happened?” Brett is ready to clock the little diva. Why is he being so evasive?

“Nothing happened.” Jeremy grabs a cigarette from a pack hidden in his clothes drawer and slides it behind his ear. “I had a really bad infection so Mom took me to the hospital yesterday. They said it was gravel. Got lodged in my skin from a skateboarding accident. It was pretty nasty – they had to pop it and shit – but they gave me some antibiotics for it. So you can stop asking me about it, aight?”

Jeremy scoffs as he completes his gangster get-up. The two stud earrings. The NWA ball cap, flipped sideways. A tank top that hangs off his skinny frame like a wet towel. Some obscure brand of bright pink skater shoes. iPod at the ready.

“The other day you told me not to let ‘it’ get near me. Did you see it too?” Brett persists.

Jeremy squints at him. “See what? You’re starting to creep me out, B.” He jams in his earphones and leaves the bedroom like he’s in a Dr. Dre video, bopping along to one of his brainless tunes.

Brett slips into a t-shirt and jeans and follows Jeremy down the stairs.

“Where are Mom and Dad?”

Jeremy yanks his earphones out. “How the hell should I know? Stop following me!” He blows out the front door, slamming it behind him.

“Damnit, Jeremy! Don’t slam that door!” It’s Dad’s gravelly shout, the tone he uses when he’s especially hungover.

Brett walks into the kitchen. Mom and Dad are sitting at opposite ends of the table, slurping coffee. Dad is hunched over, crumpled up inside his housecoat. Mom is reading something in the Sun, probably fretting about the latest ISIS threats.

“Hi there, Brett,” Mom says, still reading. “Would you like some breakfast?” Her voice sounds normal. None of that contrived sweetness he detected the other day.

“Sure. Thanks.” Brett eyes his parents warily. The kitchen feels normal. Dad is nursing one of his two day hangovers and Mom is reading the paper. A typical summer morning in the Alvarez household.

“I’ll fry up some eggs and bacon. Milt, would you like anything?”

“God no,” Dad grumbles, draining the rest of his coffee. “Please, Wendy, let me do the cooking. Three eggs ok, Brett?”

“Sure. Thanks, Dad.”

Dad mumbles something about a splitting headache and rummages through the pantry.

After breakfast, Mom messes Brett’s hair and announces that she’s heading to the driving range with Loraine and Mandy. Settling into her normal summer routine. The warmth of her hand on Brett’s scalp is comforting, even the pungent orange smell of her hand cream. It’s the Mom he knows.

Dad claps a hand on Brett’s shoulder. Always a little rough, the same way he communicates with fellow chefs.

“Come outside, Brett. I gotta head to the restaurant soon. Remind me not to drink wine with our neighbors again, would you?”

Brett follows Dad to the backyard porch. Dad wields a fresh cup of black coffee and dangles a cigarette from his lips. They sit on adjacent deck chairs. It’s an early summer morning, bright and cool. The mugginess of the last few days is gone.

Dad pulls something from the front pocket of his housecoat. “I got you something the other day. Don’t tell Mom.”

It’s a cherry flavored cigarillo. Brett looks at it, a little stunned, and Dad smiles.

“Damnit, Brett, I know you smoke these candy-ass things with your buddy George. I ain’t stupid. I’m just glad you’re not a pothead like your little brother.”

Dad lights his cigarette, hands Brett the cigarillo and his little green lighter. Whatever tainted their house is gone, leaving a strange family to carry on with its dysfunctional existence. Brett can feel it, the return to normalcy.

“Hey, Dad, did you notice something weird going on the past few days?”

“Sumthin’ weird?” Dad asks through a mouthful of cigarette.

“Yeah. Like the other day Jeremy woke up with this really nasty infection. The day before that I saw this creepy face in the window. I keep having these scary dreams, too. Like there’s someone else in the house.”

Brett expects a phlegmy cigarette chuckle. Expects Dad to tell him he’s being a nutcase. Something to conclude this bizarre nightmare and allow Brett to enjoy the rest of his summer.

Dad doesn’t laugh or take a drag of his cigarette. He leaves it smoldering, swallowed up by the cool breeze.

“I wasn’t hungover yesterday, Brett.”

“What do you mean?”

Dad slurps his coffee. “Mr. Madfhy asked about you. Mom and I talked to him, and things are going to be fine.”

“Mr. Madfee?”

“If you see him again, don’t let him near you. Hey, light up. I gave you the cigarillo to smoke, not stare at.”

A scaly accordion of gooseflesh crawls along Brett’s spine. He feels Dad watching him, a little too intently. Something in Dad’s voice tells Brett this isn’t the man he spoke to in the kitchen. This man wants him to smoke a poisoned cigarillo. Brett can feel his sour excitement.

“You know what, Dad, I think I’ll save it. I’m heading over to George’s later, anyways.”

Day 6

“Mom and Dad fucking hate you.”

Brett’s asleep, but he’s fully conscious.

Conscious of Jeremy’s face, inches from his own. Jeremy leaning over him, gripping the edges of his bedframe. Jeremy’s features melting, leaving a half decomposed face peeling off the skull. Tattered black lips, stitched together by wire. Withered patches of grey flesh clinging to the cheekbones. Eyeballs that leak fluid from the retinas, piss yellow. He can smell the old meat decay on Jeremy’s breath and feel his hot putrefaction wafting down his neck.

Jeremy – no, Mr. Madfhy – is transmitting thoughts to Brett. A warped telekinesis. Brett sees himself lying in bed. Mr. Madfhy plunges his face into Brett’s chest and emerges with a glowing embryo, which squeals and writhes between his jagged teeth. Mr. Madfhy swallows the embryo and gorges himself again, unleashing a foamy spray of blood and tattered ventricles. Eating Brett alive, a pulpy confetti of blood and flesh smeared across his lips and dripping down his chin.

When Brett wakes up, he doesn’t have to check. He’s pissed himself again. Mr. Madfhy is getting closer. Brett scrambles out of bed and clamps a hand on his neck, conscious of a dull, aching pain. A dry scratching sound drifts out from the bathroom.


“Yeah, what?” Jeremy’s irritated voice, muffled behind the bathroom door.

“Who are you talking to?”

“Yeah, hold on a sec…” Jeremy flushes the toilet. No tap water running. Jeremy, as usual, has neglected to wash his hands. He yanks the door open. “What?”

“Who the hell were you whispering to in there?”

“Jesus Christ, B, I’m talking to my girl, aight?”

He is holding his iPhone. Classy, Jeremy.

“You talk to her while you’re taking a shit?”

Jeremy covers his iPhone. “Shut up, dude! You think I want her to hear that? At least I have a girlfriend!”

Brett manages a smirk. Jeremy heads back to the bathroom, resuming his daily ritual of applying far too much hair gel. He doesn’t bother closing the door.

“Close the door!” Brett shouts. “You stink!”

Kill the little roach. Bleed him out with a kitchen knife. One clean slit across the esophagus. The thought surprises Brett, but it isn’t entirely unpleasant. It’s kind of nice.

Jeremy turns and smiles. Like he heard the thought, and enjoyed it more than Brett did. This is crazy. Brett bundles his damp bedsheets together and shuffles down the hallway, past his parents’ bedroom. Forget the thought. Forget Jeremy’s smile.

He doesn’t want to, but something makes him pause outside his parents’ bedroom door. He doesn’t know what it is. Or, more accurately, he wishes he didn’t know. There’s a scratchy whispering sound coming from the bedroom, like the sound of two claves rubbed together. The same sound he heard coming from his bathroom a minute ago. He hears his parents’ voices, too. Mom’s nasally undertone and Dad’s gurgly bark, thick with cigarette phlegm.

The voices stop simultaneously. Brett can feel his parents looking at him from behind the door. He can’t move. He’s immobilized by his parents’ hatred, a repulsion so deep he can feel it running through the walls of the house. Mom And Dad Fucking Hate You. Mr. Madfhy, staring right at him.

He tears himself away and lunges towards the laundry room. Hurls his pissy bedsheets in the washing machine. God his neck hurts. That’s ok. A bit of Tide, some hot water, the swish chug sound of the washing machine, and everything will be fine. Just a normal summer morning in early July.

He walks back to his bedroom. Ignoring the burning pain in his neck. Ignoring the stare behind his parents’ door and the current of malice running through the walls. In his room, now, the smell of Axe residue and Jeremy’s defilement coating his lungs. Just take a piss. Don’t check the mirror. He slams the door behind him. A quick glance in the mirror, that’s all. Then he’ll leave it alone.

There is a crescent of large, ripe pustules along the left side of his neck. Brett traces a finger along the bulbous ridges of his foul infection. He creates a pincer with his index fingers and pops one. Excruciating pain. A projectile stream of green goo squirts from his sore and splats against the mirror, where it hisses and sizzles. A screaming squid, yanked from the water by a fisherman’s net. Brett pops another, leaving a patter of hissing green pus on the mirror. With trembling hands, he grabs a tube of Polysporin from the medicine cabinet and glazes the open sores.

“Hey, Brett?”

Dad’s voice, outside the bathroom door. Dad, or Mr. Madfhy? He can’t know for sure.

“Brett? Are you ok?” Insistent, urgent.

Brett, exhausted, percolating sweat and green pus, would love to believe Dad wants to help him. He swings the door open, too tired to care.

“Damnit, Brett,” Dad gasps. It must look awful. It must stink to batshit hell in here. Dad surveys the mirror and the leaky minefield on Brett’s neck.

“I’m sick,” Brett mutters.

“Come on. I’m taking you to the hospital.”

“No. I’ll be fine.”

Dad closes the bathroom door behind him and kneels down.

“Brett. There’s something wrong with this house. Whatever’s in here got to Mom and it got to Jeremy. It almost got to me, too. We have to go. We can still get away from it.”

“From Mr. Madfhy?”

“That’s right. From Mr. Madfhy. We need to get out of here. Get you some help and then figure out what to do next. Come on.”

Mom and Dad were normal yesterday; for a few minutes, anyways. Dad sounds that way now, the way he sounded when he made breakfast and talked to Brett about the block party. Maybe there’s still a small window of time before Mr. Madfhy possesses him again.

Brett nods and follows Dad downstairs, into the garage. He really has no alternative.

Stupid old prick. I’d love to smother him with his own pillow. Brett shudders, enamored with the ecstasy of the sudden, violent thought.

“Hold on a sec, Brett. I need to grab something.” Dad starts the car with his automatic starter, slips back into the house and closes the door behind him. The car rumbles to life. Mom yells something from upstairs.

Ugly bitch. I’d love to strangle her with an extension cord.

 Dimly, Brett realizes he could pass out from carbon monoxide fumes. He presses the cool plastic of the garage door opener. No response. He presses again, harder this time.

Damn opener broke again. Somewhere in the cluttered chaos of Brett’s mind, he remembers Dad’s words. Dad griped about the garage door opener all last week. Brett pulls the door handle. Locked. Brett scrambles towards the Honda and yanks on the handle. Dad locked the car, too. Brett is trapped inside a carbon monoxide chamber.

And he’s not alone. Someone is in here with him. Mr. Madfhy emerges from behind the car, a tall figure dressed in one of Dad’s tuxedos. His face is emaciated, the gaunt expression of a puckered old man, shrunken red eyeballs and sallow grey skin.

“Shit…” Brett whispers.

Mr. Madfhy speaks, the scratchy sound of wood claves, moving his stitched lips and rotten yellow teeth. Brett feels a slow trickle of warm piss leak through his underwear, down the sides of his leg.

Give me what I want and I will give you what you need. I will let you live. I will leave your family alone.

 In that moment, Brett’s fear dissipates. Mr. Madfhy has a weakness. Brett was just too scared to see it. Brett’s family has failed to satiate Mr. Madfhy’s hunger. His yearning for Brett is deeper. The night Jeremy’s boil popped, Brett put a clamp on Mr. Madfhy’s grasping claws. He resisted him. He hurt him. He can do it again.

“Go ahead,” Brett says.

Mr. Madfhy draws closer, and Brett feels the grasping claws again, reaching for something inside his chest. He has a few seconds to stop him.

The claws plunge deeper, and Brett feels a rush of intoxicating power. He could stop him, but why? Mr. Madfhy never really wanted to take anything. He only wanted to give. For a second Brett feels hollowed out, but there’s no need to resist. He is renewed, enraptured by sheer euphoria. A rush of hatred so powerful he could cry with joy.

The door connecting the house to the garage creaks open. Brett walks inside and stands behind the living room window. He can think of no other spot he would rather be. There is a driving hailstorm outside and someone pounding on the door. Someone who looks very familiar to him.