The monsters in my backyard


Accipiter G. Goshawk

This is a story I submitted to two writing competitions. Given the results, I am now free to post it here.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did writing it.


I remember that it started happening shortly after the roses bloomed.

Sometime that week, I had – apparently – been sitting on my back porch, smoking. I remember that I used to do this often. Back then, it seemed that the sweet caress of nicotine was the only thing keeping me sane.

I’d just finished the last drag and was ready for bed. Feeling lazy, I rubbed the cigarette out on the side of a small rock and then tossed it into a little hole in the sand by the house.

It was a habit; something so innocent and usual, that I didn’t even stop to think about it. Ten minutes later, I was happily curled up in my bed, utterly unaware that the transformation had begun.

The next day, I met the first monster.

“Hey, wassup?”

The low, gravelly voice had seemed to have come out of nowhere, interrupting my morning smoke. Looking down, I noticed the lonely cigarette butt.

It was standing in a small hole, half-filled with water. During the night, it seemed to have developed a pair of horny antennae. It was currently staring at me with one globulous brown eye.

“I said: hey, wassup,” it growled crossly.

“I heard,” I answered dumbly, trying to think of something clever to say. Nothing came to me and I finally settled for the obvious.

“Not much. And you?”

The monster kept staring at me pointedly for a moment and then seemed to make up its mind.

“Same. The name’s Cyril, by the way. You?”

“Paul,” I managed to say without choking on my next drag.

“Cool, cool,” it said a little demurely.

We spent the next two minutes in uncomfortable silence. Finally, I ended the awkwardness by coughing a little and extinguishing my current cigarette. I started to leave.

“Ehm, do you mind…er…leaving that with me?”

I turned and saw Cyril pointing a newly formed purple tentacle at the butt in my hand.

“No, not at all,” I said, handing the remains of the cigarette to the odd creature. It sighed happily and quickly proceeded to ingest the small cylinder. There was a small groaning noise and almost immediately, the monster seemed to inflate. It was now the size of a small hamster and had sprouted three more appendages.

“Thanks man, I needed that,” it said happily. Slowly, the water around the lower part of its body grew darker.

“Yeah, no problem…,” I said a little weakly and left for work.

The rest of the day went by in a blur. The only thing I remember is that every time I tossed a cigarette into a gutter or in the street, I’d stare at it for a few seconds. Wondering.

That evening, Cyril was waiting for me.

“Dinner time, my man!” he rumbled eagerly, eyeing the burning cylinder in my mouth. When I was finished, I tossed the butt towards him and quickly left. I didn’t want to see what would happen next.

That night, my sleep was disturbed by odd dreams. A pair of dark lumps sitting under my eyes greeted me when I got up to shave, and I could swear that my hair looked greyer.

Maybe that’s why I didn’t really react when I met Rolf.

“Hey boss! Look, I found a friend!” jabbered Cyril happily. During the night he’d grown larger and harrier; he was now the size of a small dog, but he looked like a mix between a brown squid and a rat. Jagged teeth peered out at me from under thin white lips and his eye roamed endlessly around my garden, staring.

The monster squatting next to him was entirely different.

Rolf was a small lump of grey translucent sludge. The only reason I was sure he was a monster and not a pile of cat-sick, was that he was waving at me.

“Good day sir!” he chirped happily, as insect-like eyes floated in the goo of his body. “I am Rolf! I climbed out of your washing machine last night! I was so happy to meet this fine fellow; he mentioned you had…ahem…nourishment?”

I stared at Rolf, appraisingly.

“Well…I…suppose I might,” I managed, taking a quick drag. “What exactly do you eat?”

Rolf’s gelatinous form shook eagerly.

“I am a fine connoisseur of the microbeads that rub off your clothes in the wash…if you could just give me a way to easily access your domicile, I will help myself.”

“Well,” I said hesitantly, “there is always the cat-flap.”

“Marvellous, perfect! Thank you kind sir, you won’t regret it!” he said, as he quickly slithered up my porch steps and into the house.

I threw away the cigarette and winced slightly as I heard Cyril grow behind me.

The days flew by quickly.

Jerry moved in shortly after Rolf and Tony crept out of the exhaust of my car a week later.

One day after I had the gardener cut down the old sycamore –I was tired of raking up the leaves-, Iris showed up at my doorstep.

“This were the party’s at?” she giggled, swinging her dead insect legs over the doormat and into the living room. I was slightly taken aback at the heat that wafted off her; it was as if she was made of boiling asphalt.

“I suppose…,” I answered weakly, her fiery aura making me sweat and feel weak.

“Hey Cyril, where you at?” she called shrilly, as she moved to the back of the house. My poor ficus didn’t survive her passage and immediately lost all its leaves.

“Well I’ll be…the whole crew’s here!”

“Look fellas! It’s Iris!” bellowed Tony happily, as he raised one smoky arm to wave at the weird assemblage of dead remains and heat, which was now sashaying down the porch steps.

“He-he-hello Iris,” stammered Jerry bashfully from his spot beneath the table. The plastic monster trembled slightly, causing one of my old soda bottles to come loose from where it had been lodged between his teeth. It rolled six feet before his long prehensile tongue whipped out and grabbed it.

“Hi Jerry,” she said carelessly, making a beeline for Cyril.

The cigarette-monster had grown considerably in the last few days. Not satisfied with the leftovers of my addiction, he had taken to sneaking out into the streets after dark and sucking up the remains of other people’s smokes. He now towered above me, a large cone-shaped creature with countless brown tentacles and a large bulbous eye. He’d also started to emit a sort of dark puss from his body, causing all the small pools of water in the nearby fields to stink.

“Well, well. Iris. Ain’t you a sight for sore eyes,” he coughed huskily.

By the fence, Rolf chuckled. The grey sludge was now as tall as I was and about three times as wide. He was currently sticking one of his prehensile extremities into the storm drain, catching as many of his beloved microbeads as he could swallow. Even now, I could see him slowly grow larger, greyer.


Things went quickly after that. Every day the pack grew larger and soon they were living in my house. I couldn’t walk down the corridor without Tony floating through me and causing me to double over choking. Or without knocking into Iris by accident on the way to the kitchen and finding my life ebbing away at the touch of her searing hands.

Then, one day, the water turned black.

“Sorry about that,” rumbled Cyril airily, as he thrust a large pack of cigarettes into his gaping maw.

I stopped using the tap and instead resorted to buying mineral water. But that only made things worse. Jerry found every single one of the empty bottles I threw in the trash; he grew so large that he became stuck in the stairwell, effectively rendering the first floor inaccessible.

During this time, I’d grown thinner and weaker. I wheezed when I walked and even driving to work had become a terrible effort.

If things didn’t change soon, I was going to become lost in a sea of grotesque monsters.

So, I began with the small things, the easy things.

In the place of the old sycamore, I had the gardener plant three birch trees. Then, I added a pear and a cherry tree in the backyard for good measure.

Thankfully, this was enough to scare Iris away. One morning I saw her scramble down the street, losing bits of herself as she went.  A few days later, birds came back to the garden, as well as bees, squirrels and other insects.

For the first time in weeks, I started to breathe again.

It didn’t take much to get rid of Jerry either.

One day, I came home with a few recycling bins. He took one look at them and immediately fell apart. It took me a while to sort his remains, but it was worth it.

Tony was tougher to evict. I used my car for everything; I didn’t go anywhere without it.

So, I started small. Instead of driving all the way to the megastore off the A34, I walked down the street a few times to my local market. For each step I took, Tony seemed to grow more transparent and mixed up. The day I took the bus to work was the day he disappeared entirely.

Rolf took a long time to get rid of. As the weeks and months went by, I slowly replaced my articles of clothing with non-synthetic fibres. I can still remember the look he gave me the first time I walked through the door sporting a new cotton T-Shirt: horror mixed with pretentious disgust.

I saw the last of him around Christmas, when Grandpa Joe gave me a sweater he had knit himself, made from the wool from his farm. The instant I pulled the garment over my head marked the end of Rolf’s existence.

Cyril took even longer.

Forcing him to grow smaller was a slow process; it took me a while to get into the habit of picking up my cigarettes. However, I had a good motivator: every butt I threw in the trash cleared the water just little bit. A few months later, I was back to drinking out of the tap again and Cyril was reduced to his initial cockroach-size.

“You can’t do this, man! I need to feed!” he screeched at me, one day in autumn.

I ignored him and finishing my cigarette, extinguished it in a portable ashtray.

The simple gesture caused Cyril to sink into the ground, never to be seen again.

Since then, I’ve stopped smoking; the experience made me wonder if maybe I was nurturing a small monster in my lungs.

I’ve also grown more attentive to the world around me and the little things that could cause those pesky monsters to reappear.

Sometimes I meet people who are fighting with demonic creatures the size of houses.

“We need a hero!” they cry, convinced that David was never a match for Goliath.

“Start small,” I tell them.

Some wonder, others frown. I never notice, because I’m usually looking at the monsters.

And every time, I see them tremble.

Then I smile, and walk away.-

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