Nat had heard it since he was a child—squirming around under his bedframe among the lint and dust bunnies, like it was roosting, making some kind nest for itself with old t-shirts and comic books. A few times he’d even looked—bent over the side of his mattress, curls nearly brushing the carpet—but other than books, lost clothes, and a few runaway batteries, he’d never seen anything.
It followed him when he moved to the basement in second grade. Sometimes the speakers on his brand new CD player would crackle and hiss like something was trying to speak through them. His lamp would turn on and off at night, or the loose change on his nightstand would rattle, and he’d lie frozen in bed until it stopped.
And eventually, it all stopped, and he forgot about it until he was old enough to sneak boys through the garage side door while his parents slept two floors up. The boys were never boyfriends—just curious classmates, like the flute player who he’d caught staring at him across the bus, or the soccer team goalie who’d checked him out during gym.
He didn’t care who they were—he just liked kissing them, liked feeling their tongues with his, liked the way another boy’s chest pressed against him.
He could’ve been imagining the scratching, the rustling beneath his bed. Could’ve chalked it up to the bed shifting as he and some boy lay wrapped around each other in the dark. The house is just settling is what his father always said when something creaked inside the walls. The boys never noticed, more concerned with Nat’s mouth on their neck or his leg pressed between theirs.
He got older, failed a semester at college, starts working at a book store while he “figured things out.” He stayed in the basement, and while his parents weren’t the type to charge him rent, he tried to keep the house clean anyway. They must have known when he brought people over, at night after work, but they never intruded, never said a word.
One night he brings home a coworker from the book store, who drapes his brown leather jacket over the back of the couch before he sits down and braces his elbows against his knees. He’s nervous, most of them are when they come over.
Nat sits close enough so that their thighs touch, slipping one hand under the coworker’s polo sleeve—and just like that, they’re making out on the deflated pullout, grabbing at each other’s clothes as they try not to bang teeth.
Coworker’s hand is halfway up Nat’s shirt when something flinches in his periphery. As Nat’s eyes dart around, he catches movement along the wall, in the crevice between wood paneling and drop ceiling in the corner.
He squints into the darkness. Coworker notices and bends his head to whisper into Nat’s throat. “What’s wrong?”
Whatever Nat had seen—whatever he thinks he saw, sneaking along the wall like a thief—goes still. Nat can almost make it out, the darkness pulsing like it does behind his eyelids when he sleeps, but it’s gone before it takes shape. Perhaps his mind is simply reassembling shadows, trying to make sense of the unsettling feeling creeping up his spine—that whatever used to live under his bed is here again, watching them.
“Nothing,” he finally says, smiling up at the coworker as he attempts to tug him closer by his collar.
Coworker leans back, his face puzzled, a little hurt. “Do you not wanna do this?”
The shadow drops down the wall to the floor, and two red dots peer from the corner, like a blinking record light on a video camera.
“Yeah,” Nat says, licking his lips as he tries to keep his gaze on his coworker. “Of course I do.”
Coworker sits up fully, one leg bent beneath him as he faces sideways on the couch. “I can leave if you want.”
“No.” Nat shakes his head. “I want you to stay. That’s why I asked you over.”
Coworker eyes him, then sighs. “Sorry,” he says. “I’m just nervous, I’ve never… done this before.”
The glowing eyes move like tracers in the dark, twin cigarette cherries now poised at the edge of Nat’s bed.
He swallows and takes Coworker’s hand. “Maybe the bed would be better?”
Coworker nods, and by the time Nat leads him across the room, the eyes are peeking from beneath the frame, fading in and out as if blinking.
Why now? Nat thinks as they pull off their shirts. Coworker lies on his back as Nat straddles his hips and bends down. Chest to chest, Coworker moans, groping Nat’s shoulders as they kiss again.
The thing is silent, waiting, and suddenly Nat feels the urge to hurry this up. He wants this, he does—Coworker is cute, makes good jokes, and maybe he’d like to do this again sometime. But suddenly Nat’s overwhelmed by the urge to get him out of there as quickly as possible.
He struggles with Coworker’s zipper, humming at the size of his cock as he pulls it out. Coworker breathes heavily as Nat edges down his body, settling on his stomach against the comforter. At the first pass of his tongue, Coworker throws his head back, hand barely clapping over his mouth before he moans into his palm.
Nat sucks the head of his cock, easing Coworker into it in case it’s the first blowjob he’s ever had. Maybe it’s not—Coworker eventually relaxes, gives short little thrusts with his hips as Nat takes more of him in.
Under the bed, the thing is making noise, like the soft shred of fabric. Nat sucks louder, wetter, running his free hand up Coworker’s thigh to circle his sac with his thumb.
“Fuck—oh fuck, that’s good,” Coworker mumbles between his fingers.
Under different circumstances Nat would draw this out, leave his coworker practically begging for release, but he slams down, coworker’s dick tip jabbing the back of his throat. Nat works his tongue against the underside, sucks hard on the head when he pulls back, jerks his coworker’s cock with the slick of his own saliva.
As Nat descends again, Coworker’s body goes rigid and Nat thinks yes, finally even though it’s hardly been ten minutes since they started.
But when Nat looks up, his stomach drops and his mouth feels dry. Two red eyes peer down at him from Coworker’s face, his mouth agape with his jaw set crooked. His breaths come out short, almost a deflating hiss, as he reaches a trembling hand out. Fingers gently prod Nat’s curls before they coil into a fist and drag his head back down to Coworker’s cock.
“Suck,” Coworker whispers in a voice that isn’t his.
Nat’s throat crackles as he gulps, opens his mouth and feeds Coworker’s cock through his lips. The grip is relentless, depriving him of slack to move, so he bends his neck to take in as much as he can until there’s an inch or so left between his lips and Coworker’s pubes. His eyes are watering, throat stretched around the cock in his mouth.
Nat grunts, pulls back, sinks down again, tongue writhing along the underside of Coworker’s cock. The hissing grows louder, each inhale strained and slow like an endless death rattle. He gags but the thing doesn’t release him, and finally he wrenches his head away even though his scalp burns.
The thing shrieks with Coworker’s mouth, but Nat’s already on his feet, stumbling to the other side of the room. His back hits the wall as Coworker’s body crumples on the bed, lying still save for the rise and fall of his chest.
Nat doesn’t move until Coworker finally stirs, and he flips on the nearby switch, bathing them both in yellow light.
Coworker blinks as his eyes adjust. “Shit—did I fall asleep?” he croaks.
“Y-yeah,” Nat says. “It’s okay, it’s fine.” The words aren’t any more convincing said aloud.
Coworker yawns—normal, human. His eyes are no longer glowing red as he stands and pulls his shirt back on. “I, um—I should go.”
“Sure,” Nat says, nodding. “Yeah.”
Coworker is looking at him suspiciously but says nothing else, just grabs his coat from the couch and gives Nat a final wave before he slips out to the garage.
Nat keeps the light on and curls up on the couch, staring at the dark stripe under his bed until he falls asleep.