The Razaklaw is no campfire tale. I’ve seen it with my own two eyes, heard it whispering in the shadows. Four steps, it whispered. Always four steps.
The Razaklaw and I were locked in a game which we had to play every night. We had to play because it was his rule. Every night as soon as the lights went out I had four steps to reach my bed. I could run or leap, but if I took more than four steps the Razaklaw could get me. It could get me if I strayed from my bed after that, for from that moment on the night belonged to him.
I made sure I never took more than four steps. Ever.
The first time I saw the Razaklaw I was just shy of three years old. We’d just moved into the house, and it was my first night in my new room. I heard something breathing in the dark, slow and hoarse, and I knew I was being watched.
“What’s your name?” I said.
There was no response at first. After a while I heard a tapping sound at the edge of my bed. And then an exhalation, like the sound of branches slowly scraping against the wall. Raa…zaa…klaaaawwwwww.
As I grew older I began to wonder if I was imagining the Razaklaw. None of my friends saw him, and my parents told me there were no such things as monsters. I thought if I stopped believing in it, it would go away. But it didn’t work. Every night there it was, its bark-like fingers cracking in the dark. Four steps, it continued to whisper. Four steps.
I began to research this creature. I was tired of living in fear. I wanted this thing out of my life.
I scoured the library, the internet, and any other resource I could find. There was no mention of the Razaklaw anywhere, or anything like it.
I contacted occultists and ghost hunters, spoke to academics who studied ancient lore, and even went through old newspaper clippings. No one had heard of such a being.
I started to give up hope.
On the last day of the school term I flopped down on the couch and groaned. “I’ll never find the Razaklaw,” I said. I put my head in my hands.
After a few seconds I had the distinct feeling of someone watching me. I looked up to see our elderly neighbour Erin Rotherfield scrutinizing me from her recliner across the room. She spent most of her afternoons at our house, chatting with Mum or knitting, but she barely ever said a word to me. We dismissed her as “Old Erin”, lost in her own world.
But she was definitely looking at me then, and I didn’t really know what to do about it. I shuffled uncomfortably.
Old Erin chuckled. “I haven’t heard that name in a long time,” she said.
“What name?” Then it clicked. “The Razaklaw? You know it?”
“The Razaklaw.” A sad smile flickered across her face.
And then she told me an astonishing story. She told me of a young boy named Sam who’d lived in the house ten years before we moved in. He hated going to sleep and threw tantrums every night at bedtime. So his mother told him a scary story to get him to go to bed. She made up a creature called the Razaklaw, who would catch him if he took more than four steps to get into bed after the lights went out.
Old Erin sighed. “I never approved of this game. It terrified the child. I told him, I told him Sam. You have to conquer your fears. The best way to do that is to become your fear. If the Razaklaw makes the rules, you be the Razaklaw. You make the rules.”
“What happened to Sam?” I asked.
“The poor child. He was so scared the Razaklaw would get him that he scrambled to bed without a thought for his own safety. One morning they found him at the foot of his bed. His neck was broken.”
Old Erin’s words stayed with me well into the night. Sam died quickly, but in those last moments he must have been terrified. Terrified of the Razaklaw’s prickly fingers closing around his neck…
…and all it had been was a scary story.
But it was more than that now. The Razaklaw was real.
I wondered…those last moments…
I told him Sam…you be the Razaklaw. You make the rules.
That night when I heard its slow, rasping breath fill the shadows I didn’t close my eyes. “Sam?” I said.
The breathing stopped.
I didn’t hear anything more that night.
The next night I was ready for him. I stood at the foot of my bed with my hands planted on my hips, ready to face whatever came out of the shadows. I could feel the Razaklaw’s displeasure hanging in the darkness. Four steps, it reminded me.
“No,” I said firmly. “Not this time,Sam.”
A footstep, not far from my bed.
Four steps! Forceful now, angry.
“You have to wake up, Sam. You are not the Razaklaw. You don’t have to play this game anymore.”
Another footstep, closer now.
I stepped into the darkness, following the scrape of its breath. One step, two steps, three steps, four…
Something lunged at me from the shadows. Rough fingers closed around my throat. And in that moment I felt a horror so fresh it left space for nothing else.
It hadn’t worked.
The scream was torn from my throat.
Pure horror, horror…
I did the only thing I could.
My death no longer pains me.
The game is the only thing that matters.
Four steps, and I win. Four steps, and they’re mine.
It fills me with a hunger, an excitement that leaves space for nothing else. I make the rules. I am the fear. And the night is my domain.
Sometimes thoughts come to me unbidden. They float into my mind with the sunlight, filling me with memories of a life I once knew. In those moments I feel a sadness, a yearning for what I have lost.
Sometimes I even remember who I am.
This is one of those times, but it will not last for long. The night approaches and the game must begin once more.
As I said, the Razaklaw is no campfire tale. It is my story and I thank you for listening to it.
My free flash fiction collection Strange Beings is coming soon. It will contain stories in the genres of fantasy, sci fi, horror and mystery. Keep your eyes peeled for it 🙂