Post series: Stilt Walkers

Serial Killers: Stilt Walkers. Part 3

  1. Serial Killers: Stilt Walkers. Part 1
  2. Serial Killers: Stilt Walkers. Part 2
  3. Serial Killers: Stilt Walkers. Part 3

Serial Killers are part of our Trembling With Fear line and are serialized stories which we’ll be publishing on an ongoing basis.

Where Daylight Meets Dreams

Amber didn’t sleep. The wakesfulness was building up inside of her. She could feel it like a glass of water filled to the brink.

In her house just as dusk was painting the sky red, she laid out a white button-up shirt on the bathroom counter. Mister Jonesy sat on the counter too, watching her work. She picked up a long needle from her mother’s sewing kit. She tried to be careful, but her hands trembled as she weaved the needle in and out of the stiff collar. Then she threaded another. And another. When she added the last one, the whole collar was lined with the longest and sharpest of the needles, all pointed up around the neck like the prongs of a king’s crown. She picked up the shirt and whipped it around her body like a cape. Her arms slipped in the sleeves. Her fingers, numb with fatigue, managed each button all the way up to the top and fastened the collar tight around her neck. The needles rested flat against her skin.

She bent her neck in each direction until she felt the sharp poke of the pins. When she bent forward, one of the longer ones got her good and drew blood.

“Ow,” she whispered. She pressed against the tiny hole to staunch the bleeding. Mister Jonesy looked up at her with his solid unblinking eyes. “One more thing, Jonesy. Just to make sure it works.”

Amber turned off the bathroom light and the room fell into absolute darkness. There, alone, unobserved and consumed in darkness she had a deep and sudden temptation to lay down and sleep. It would be easy. She’d have to take the shirt with the needles off first, but that wouldn’t take more than a few seconds. Then she could sleep, and sleep for a long time. Maybe, after enough rest, all these problems would disappear and she could remember what it was like to be normal again. Did she choose to close her eyes, or was it just fatigue? They closed, and there was no difference. Everything was dark. Still, those dreams were waiting for her just on the other side of the veil of consciousness.

The steering wheel of her car. The dashboard. A text alert from friends since forgotten on her cell phone. A flash of movement above the dash. A guy on a bike. Broken glass and blood.

Amber opened her eyes in the pitch-black bathroom. No difference. Only now she knew she couldn’t sleep. Not yet. Couldn’t play in her dreams just yet.

She exhaled. “Gotta give it a try, Mister Jonesy. Can’t let much out, but I have to know it’s in there,” she said and closed her eyes again. No temptation of sleep this time. She lifted her palms up in front of her face, her neck straight and rigid to avoid the needles. She crammed her eyes shut and concentrated as hard as she could.

The bathroom began to glow a dull red, then a brighter orange like the coils of an electric space heater. The shapeless glow took form behind her closed eyelids. Two palms. Ten fingers spread wide open. Like an image seen through a thermal sensor.

“That’s enough,” Amber said, cutting it off, and flicking on the light. It was instantly bright again, and she had to squint her eyes to see. The stuffed toy mouse—the rat, still sat on the counter. “Got to save it up, Jonesy. For when we need it later.”


The needles did their work. Whenever she drooped they stabbed her awake deep into the night.

Amber watched from her rooftop. Over the course of hours, traffic dwindled from steady to sporadic to vaccuumous. The moon crawled up the sky. Mister Jonesy, held close to her, never blinked and never slept. He’d been classically conditioned in his bucket not to fall asleep a long time ago. For Amber, her conditioning was just beginning. Her eyelids felt heavy like cinder blocks, and if she could have laced sewing needles through them to keep them apart, she would have.

Instead, she sat on the slope of her roof with the spikes surrounding her collar prodding her each time she moved. Every time she turned her neck, each time she craned up or down, they rubbed the skin a little redder and a little rawer.

Hours passed without a single sighting, and her invention got its first real test. Reality gave way to delirium and Amber’s head fell forward, hard. Two sewing needles stabbed deep into her skin. The sensation was so instantaneously painful she jerked her head back and got pokes from the needles in the back of her collar almost as deep as the ones in front. That brought her back to full consciousness, as alert as a rabbit in a field full of foxes. She brought her hand up to the skin next to her Adam’s apple. Her fingers came away red and wet.

“Jesus, Jonesy,” she said. “Remind me not to do that again.”

Mister Jonesy didn’t reply. His eyes were sewn open. For him, this was old hat.

Amber sighed and shuffled her butt, trying to get a little more comfortable on the shingles. Where were they? She knew they were out there, already stalking through the housing and picking their victims like quiet kids pressing down thumbs in a classroom; she just couldn’t see them yet. Each hour meant another house infected with their evil. She couldn’t wait much longer. She had to draw them to her. They always came closest to the dawn, when she was the most tired, when she balanced exactly right along the razor’s edge between awake and sleep. It was only when she was her most vulnerable that she could see them, intercept them and intervene. Right at that place where daylight met dreams.

She had to give them something. Had to present to them an easy target. A fragile mind for them to infect. Amber never learned to meditate. Never did yoga or any of that other stuff that might have taught her how to control her mind and set it in the place for a trap. So instead, she talked herself through the Hollywood pseudo-spiritual Jedi/Kung Fu version of meditation.

“Center yourself. Clear your mind. Think of nothing. Breathe. Let the bastards come to you,” she whispered. She wouldn’t allow herself to close her eyes. Just blink after heavy blink. She breathed. Focused. Not so much as to bring out her stored wakefulness, but enough to call out to them with her mind. Weak thoughts. Selfish thoughts. Thoughts that wanted sleep above all else. “Come my way and infect me with your evil. I’m ready for it, you sons of bitches.”

Around her, the crickets and frogs silenced their nighttime anthem. The buzz of a transformer went mute. Cool wind brushed past her ears. Something slow and plodding moved behind her. Amber sensed it more than heard it, but she knew exactly what it was.

“This Will Kill You”

She fixed her eyes straight ahead. Across the housing development, others emerged from the inky darkness of night. Thick bulbous bodies on impossibly thin and sharp legs. A radio tower blinked its warning light and reflected red off their glistening backs. They moved over rooftops like black Nazi zeppelins in the distance. Steady. Silent. Probing each residence for mental and moral weaknesses.

But those stilt walkers didn’t concern her nearly as much as the one creeping up behind her back. The sensation of a dozen whiskers as thick as hemp ropes stretching out to her. They smelled her, tasted her, savored her fear and fatigue, stretched around her arms and shoulders, overwhelming her. But nothing touched her, not yet.

Her breath was caught somewhere mid-throat. Her pours dumped sweat onto her skin. Slowly, she turned her head. A needle caught the loose flesh around one of the wounds and dragged it open a bit more. Blood ran free. She turned around and came to her feet.

The stilt walker loomed just a few feet from her face. The rope-like whiskers made a tunnel between her eyes and its eye clusters. Too many shiny black beads to count. She spotted more with each red flash of the radio antenna light. Hell-red ruby inlays in a leathery undulating body roughly the size and shape of a Volkswagen Bug. It pulsed and heaved as if breathing through lungs and beating an ugly heart, but she wasn’t convinced the thing had either organs. She breathed in its stink. Old food. Dried gym clothes. Dead animals. Burnt hair. Bad dreams.

The injector tube was already dangling from under its body. Now the tip of it snaked over the peak of the roof, its wet macaroni noodle-shaped end groping and sniffing as it went along the shingles till it found her shoe. It worked its way up, slipping along her bare legs up to the hem of her shorts.

Why wasn’t she running? Why couldn’t she move? Why was she letting this happen? She had a plan for this, didn’t she? Why wouldn’t it come to her now? Amber went light-headed. Her vision narrowed down to a white tunnel with just a few of the wet beady eyes at the other end reflecting the red pulses of the radio antenna. She felt that macaroni noodle end of the injector crawling up her, and as much as she didn’t want it touching her body, she knew when it reached her head the real hell would come. Why couldn’t she stop it?

The words of Laura from Lutheran Social Services repeated in her ears, “This will kill you.”

The injector sniffed at Jonesy clutched tight to her chest and pulled back for just a moment. The break in contact let Amber suck air into paralyzed lungs, let a little blood flow into her brain. The white tunnel widened as she got the sense to move away from the stilt walker. One footstep backwards. Only she’d forgotten she was standing on top of a pitched roof, and she didn’t account for the slope. Where she anticipated level ground, there was nothing. Before she could react, Amber was falling over backwards, landing hard on the roof and sliding head-first away from the stilt walker and towards the ledge.

As she went over, one hand reached out and caught the gutter. Her body swung and the inertia ripped her hand loose from the thin metal. Jonesy went flying. Gravity flung her to the ground and she landed hard on the grass next to her front porch. Every pain receptor in her body lit up from head to toe. Her sense of control was gone again. She was nothing but pain receptors now, unable to move or cry or roll off her face. She couldn’t move. Couldn’t make the pain go away. When she saw through the blades of grass that the stilt walker was wandering off, it got worse. This was her one chance, and she was blowing it.

It strode around her house and then down the lane. It dismissed her. Forgot her. Thought as little of her as a piece of wet litter in the gutter. Not a threat and too disgusting to bother with.

Amber moaned and arched and repeated the word “Ow” each time she moved. The pain localized to different parts of her body. Her sides throbbed and each time she tried to breathe the pain turned from dull and generalized to sharp and precise. Her head burned but kept her conscious as she climbed back to her feet. When she brought a hand up to her neck, she found one of the needles had come out of the collar and was buried half way into her skin. She plucked it out and threw it into the yard.

She gasped and something stabbed her side. Her ribs. She’d broken them this time. Still, her eye focused on the stilt walker lumbering away from her and down the street.

“Get… back… here,” she wheezed.

Never Blinking Eyes

Amber took a step and found new injuries and new pain just as overwhelming shooting up the length of her right leg. Bruises, she decided. She could still walk on it. Could still run.

“I said get back here,” she strained out a little louder this time.

The stilt walker didn’t pay any attention.

She jerked and limped and shuffled after the creature. Each stride hurt but she ignored the pain. She was determined now. Focused. Her purpose was set and certain. It’s wasn’t until she reached the street that she noticed her hands were empty.

“Mister Jonesy.”

Spinning back to the yard, she didn’t see him. Panic rushed over her. Without him, she couldn’t do any of this. She’d fail and the stilt walkers would continue to infect the world with their evil. She rifled through the bushes and landscaping. He had to be here. She was sure he fell off the roof along with her. If he was still on the roof she had no choice. She’d have to go back up and get him, but the stilt walkers would be long gone by the time she got back down.

Amber twisted her head around. The needles ripped flesh. The stilt walkers continued their migration through the neighborhood, one or two stopping at a time to inspect and infect, but moved herd-like further and further away.

Turning back to the house, the radio antenna flashed behind her and something reflected the red light from the shadows of the porch. Two tiny red beads. Two never blinking eyes.

“Jonesy,” she said and reached into the shadows. Her hand touched soft plush cloth. She pulled the stuffed mouse out into the moonlight and buried him in a hug. “Oh thank god, thank god, thank god.”

When she took him away from her chest to look in his eyes, he was wet with blood. It was from her shirt. The white button up was now dark from the collar to her stomach. The wounds on her neck dripped and drizzled more spots onto the white material.

Her balance went funny. Her vision turned fuzzy. Standing up and turning to follow the stilt walker migration, she staggered.

“If you keep this up, it will kill you.”

“Shut up, Laura,” Amber said.

They were getting away. Too far ahead for her to catch up with them, not with her equilibrium doing backflips and all of the joints in her right leg protesting with every step. She was failing. She was letting them win.

Amber’s eyes fell on her Toyota Corolla parked at the curb.

“It’s time to end this, Jonesy.”

Inside the car, she found the keys in the cup holder, exactly where she’d left them. She dug them out and jabbed them into the ignition. She cranked and held it down until the starter chugged and coughed. How long had it been since the engine turned over? She knew exactly how long. Not since the spring. Not since the accident.

“Come on, come on…”

One more sputter and it was alive. The engine roared and one unsmashed headlight lit up the street. The spindly legs of the walkers shining up ahead.

“Buckle up, Mister Jones,” she said and threw the transmission into drive.

It was no problem catching up to the creatures now. She passed around the legs of the one that had assaulted her on the roof. One wasn’t enough. Others were ahead. She had to get to the front of the pack if she wanted to stop them all.

And she needed them all. Needed to gather all the hate, all the greed, all the rudeness and impatience and short-sightedness that would build and build into mass murder and war and starvation… she could stop it all. She could save the world.

The Corolla weaved through them like a deer through trees. Some to the left and right. One, she went right between its legs. When she didn’t see any more ahead of her or any more to either side, in one motion, she hit the brakes and cranked the wheel. The Corolla ripped sideways, almost rolled, and left black arcs of burnt rubber on the street. Its one headlamp shined through the living room window of a random house. Amber grabbed Jonesy, threw open the door and stepped out.

Looking back over the hood, she saw the entire herd moving towards her. They converged and funneled through yards from adjacent roads. Still aching, each breath still stabbing bone into lung, Amber climbed onto the hood. Her shoes were wet and slippery against the metal. Drops of blood splattered against the glass and dusty paint job. She put a hand on the roof to stabilize herself as she climbed over the cracked windshield and then onto the roof. She came up to a wide stance, staring down the street toward the oncoming stilt walkers.

“I got ‘em Jonesy,” she mumbled. “This time I got them.”

They stilted closer.

One quick check down to her palms. They were wet with blood but that didn’t matter. Under the blood they glowed like soft light bulbs under lampshades.

The stilt walkers surrounded her. They unfurled their black ropey injector tubes and twisted them through the air towards her head.

Amber stood up straight and shoved out both palms, holding onto Jonesy with one thumb. She clamped her eyes shut tight, focused, and conjured up every ounce of lost sleep and every minute of wakefulness she’d stored up. It boiled up inside of her, swelled in her brain like a pus-filled wound. She gather up the pain and sorrow and hell of each late night until it was so hot inside of her she felt no other sensation. The pain in her leg and ribs went away. Her skin heated up to match the warmth of the spilled blood running down her neck. All that energy tunneled from her chest through her arms to her palms where it pooled up, dammed by the skin of her hands. Light kindled hot against her eyelids.

Here it came. Here is where she ended it.


They found her in the morning, lying out on the pavement next to the Corolla. Mister Jonesy sat next to her, just outside of the pool of blood, still smiling.

Laura from Lutheran Social Services stood over the body and shook her head, at a loss. “I mean, I don’t know if you can call her my client. We met once. Yesterday, at her school. Very troubled young lady. I’m afraid I can’t tell you much more than that, officer.” And then as she remembered bits of the conversation, “She wanted to save us all from some sort of evil influence. I didn’t understand it.”

The officer nodded his head knowingly and closed his notebook. She didn’t have anything worth jotting down. “Well, appreciate you coming down anyway. Try to have a good day, despite… well, despite this.”

Laura released a pent up breath. “The day can only get better from here. Safe bet I won’t be coming across any more dead bodies.”

That was the end of her conversation, and the end of her interactions with Amber.

She tried to forget about the strange girl with the strange obsession from that moment forward. Behind the wheel of her car and a few blocks away, she got the first relief from her thoughts of the dead girl. A buzz from her phone in her purse in the passenger seat. Not her habit to text and drive, but she decided she could use something to take her mind off the scene she’d just left.

Laura pinned the steering wheel in place with her knee and reached into her purse. She lifted the phone up and the alert still lit up the screen: a text message from an old friend she hadn’t heard from in ages. What a perfect distraction.

Joe Prosit

Joe Prosit writes sci-fi, horror, and psycho fiction. He has been previously published in Chantwood Magazine, The No Sleep Podcast, and Aphotic Realm Magazine. He lives with his wife and kids in the Brainerd Lakes Area of northern Minnesota. If you’re an adept stalker, you can find him on one of the many lakes and rivers or lost deep inside the Great North Woods. Or you can just find him on the internet at or follow him on Twitter, @joeprosit.

Serial Killers: Stilt Walkers. Part 2

  1. Serial Killers: Stilt Walkers. Part 1
  2. Serial Killers: Stilt Walkers. Part 2
  3. Serial Killers: Stilt Walkers. Part 3

Serial Killers are part of our Trembling With Fear line and are serialized stories which we’ll be publishing on an ongoing basis.

Toxic Thoughts

“Are you getting enough sleep?”

Amber roused herself. She was in the college career counselor’s office. The man’s name was Gene. This had something to do with picking out a major? There was a coffee pot in the corner of the office. Black as tar and out of reach. She needed Jonesy.

“Listen, Amber. You’re only in your first semester and your grades are looking… Well, compared to your entrance exam scores—“ the counselor was saying. Gene was a clean guy. Starched shirt. A dress-right-dress work space. She couldn’t help but notice his cheeks still waxy and wet from a shave, except one spot he’d missed under his chin.

“I slept some,” she stifled a yawn. She didn’t add that it was only by accident and only during her last lecture. A morning class. Big auditorium. Only the stage was lit.

“Last time we talked you mentioned you were still dealing with what happened at the end of high school.”

The accident. But to call it an accident wasn’t fair. She’d been instructed and trained and warned. She’d known all about the dangers of distracted driving since she was sixteen. But she made that decision. A decision injected into her through a long black tube that had slipped into her room at night. A bad decision from a bad creature.

Since then, her piece of shit Toyota Corolla stayed parked along the curb in front of her mom’s house. The windshield was still cracked and the passenger’s headlight was busted out. She’d sell it if only someone would buy it. In the meantime, she left it parked there, unlocked with the keys in the cup holder, waiting for someone to steal it.

“Have you considered seeing a counselor?”

Amber’s fingers worried away at the zipper pull on her sweatshirt. She wanted it to be Jonesy. “Aren’t you a counselor?”

“I mean a mental health professional,” the counselor said. “Some of the things we’ve discussed are well beyond my skill set. I’m here to help you prepare yourself for your—“

“They’re not hallucinations,” Amber cut him off.

“I didn’t say—“

“The stilt walkers. I’m not dreaming them up. I wish I was, but you can see as well as I can just how bad things are. People are sick, poisoned, their thoughts are toxic, filled to the brink with hate. One of them got to me and look what happened. One of them will get to you too.”

“This is exactly what I’m talking about,” Gene sighed, more to himself than to her.

“How am I supposed to sleep while I know they’re out there? How am I supposed to ignore what I see, when I know what they can do, when I’ve seen the results of their work first hand?” Amber heard her words slur, so this time she made sure to speak clearly. “I have this ability, and I have a responsibility to use it. It’s all I can do after what I let them make me do. I owe it.”

“Amber, I am really not qualified to address these sorts of feelings,” the counselor said, resigned.

“You could fight them too, if you had the balls,” she said. “But you’d rather sleep and let the evil of the world infect us all.”

The counselor rocked forward in his chair and leaned against the desk. The old wood creaked under his weight. Amber locked eyes with him. He looked appalled by her, but also concerned. What did she look like? She knew her skin was dry and pale. Her eyelids hung loose, red like a basset hound’s. Her mouth was agape. White crude crusted to the corners of her mouth. Zombie queen meets heroin addict.

“How long has it been?” he asked.

“Saw one last night.”

“No. How long since you last slept? Really slept, like the whole night through?”

Not long enough. She still wasn’t spotting them until almost morning, when the rising sun was ready to chase them off. If she could store up more of her wakefulness during the day she could draw them out sooner. Her thoughts wandered to the water bucket they used on the lab rats. She needed something like that. Something that wouldn’t let her nod off.


“Huh?” Right. The counselor, staring her in the face.

“This will kill you,” Gene said.

“People have already died. But nobody else has to. Not anymore.”

Amber had done her research, had read and re-read all the studies. The lab rats in the buckets suffered damage to the cortical memory networks. Loss in spatial learning and synaptic plasticity. Depression and hallucinations. Elevated blood pressure. Weight gain. Eventually death. But no humans. No human on record ever died from sleep deprivation. She wasn’t going to die. And Jonesy, since he really was just clothe and stuffing, wasn’t going to die. And if she did her job right, nobody else would die either.

“You need to go to the Student Services office and ask them about seeing a mental health provider. There are resources available to you. Some at low or no—“

“I should get back to class,” Amber stood up and picked a Styrofoam cup off the stack next to the coffee machine.


The coffee was black. Burnt. Gritty with grounds. She poured the sludge into the cup. No cream. No sugar.

“You don’t need—“

The first sip burnt her tongue and mouth.

“Amber, you need sleep.”

The sludge went down her throat.

“Jesus Christ,” he mumbled and looked away.

“Thanks, doc,” Amber said. “Our little talks, they always help.”

“I am not in any way, shape, or form a doctor,” he was saying when she left the office.


Another class. Another monotone voice. Another dimly lit auditorium.

She fought to stay awake. The veil between consciousness and dreams wore silk-thin. In her dreams, Amber saw them against the backdrop of storm clouds rolling in at night. A dozen stilt walkers stalked through the houses, cul de sacs, over a middle school.

Lightning flashed and she was inside the school, in a classroom filled with desks and kids. Outside it rained on the playground. Inside, the kids were playing a game. Heads up Seven up. The kids sitting at their desks had their heads down buried in their arms and they stuck out a fist with a raised thumb. Other kids snuck through the rows and gently pressed down random thumbs. The boys picked their friends. The girls picked the boys they liked. Amber peeked up from her elbow. A stilt walker hung over them from the impossibly high classroom ceiling and watched the game approvingly.

The stilt walker glared down upon them, its beady eyes reflecting flashes of lightning coming through the window. Come on, children. Time to guess. Who snuck by your house late at night while you were sleeping and pressed your thumb down? You only get one guess. Who was it? Tina? Stacey? Maybe Tommy? It couldn’t have been the twenty foot demon creature with the long black tendril creeping through your window. Guess!

Her head tipped over sideways and Amber snapped awake.

Back at the community college. Back in the dim auditorium. The teacher still prattling on about US History. Or was it Art Appreciation? No, this was Intro to Psych. Wasn’t it? She checked her notes.

Not too many words there. Mostly doodles on the ragged spiral bound notebook. A drawing in the center of the page. A cross section of the bucket with the pedestal in the middle just big enough for a rat to sit on its hind legs. And below the pedestal? In the sleep studies they used water to keep the rat awake, but in her drawing it was different. In her drawing, surrounding the little rodent on its little pedestal were rows and rows of sharp pointy spikes.

“That’s it Mister Jonesy,” she whispered. Jonesy was deep inside her backpack under her seat. That didn’t matter though. She knew he heard her. “I think that’s the trick.”


“Amber,” Gene the career counselor said, leaning against the front of his desk again. “I’d like to introduce you to someone. This is Laura, and she’s a mental health counselor from Lutheran Social Services. They offer free consultations for people in your financial situation.”

“Hi, Amber.”

Laura from Lutheran Social Services sat in a chair parked at the side of the desk. The thin woman’s eyes were concerned, sympathetic, imploring, impossibly white as if she bleached them each night before bed.

“I’m not Lutheran,” Amber said. This was an ambush. The career counselor had tricked her. Caught her off guard after class and dragged her back into his office. And for what? To have this woman ask her if she’d found Jesus?

Laura smiled politely. “I’m a part of the social outreach program. Doesn’t matter what church you belong to or what you believe. I’m here to help.”

“Help how? If it’s really that big of a deal, I can pick out a major.”

Laura drew in and let out a long breath. “Amber, I’m not the type to beat around the bush. I’m not going to ask you about your mother or any of those sorts of questions. When I see trauma in a client’s past, I believe it’s best to address it directly.”

“Okay,” Amber’s lips fumbled out the words. Her face was numb when she talked and hung slack whenever she didn’t. She knew how she looked. It was painted in Laura’s wet sympathetic eyes.

“This past May you were involved in an accident,” Laura from Lutheran Social Services said. “There was a fatality. A man on a bicycle rode across an intersection when you had a green light.”

“It was my fault,” Amber said. “If you’re going to try to tell me it wasn’t, I’ve heard it all before. But you weren’t there.”

“The police report says you had a green light. The bicyclist had a ‘Don’t Walk’ signal he ignored,” Laura calmly explained.

“I was looking at my phone,” Amber said. The words were becoming harder to get out. Her throat was dry like sandpaper. It was the sleep deprivation. Nothing more. “I— “ Throat too dry. Too tight. She tried again. “I never did that before. I knew I wasn’t supposed to. But… some thing put the idea in my head. That I could get by with it.”

“So you blame yourself for the accident,” Laura said.


“But you just said—“

“It wasn’t my idea to do that. I was always a careful driver. I never did that before. Something told me to do that.”

Laura lifted her penciled-on eyebrows. Gene gestured and mimed to the woman as if to say, “Here it is. Here’s the thing I told you about.”

“Still, you feel like you need to make amends,” Laura said. “You want absolution.”

“I told you I’m not fucking religious.”

“But you seek forgiveness, don’t you? You wish you could take the memories away, or do something to rectify the injustice.”

“I can fix it.”

“Fix a fatality? Death is permanent.”

These people. They prod her like a mob armed with spears. All day, from all sides. If she really wanted to know, fine, Amber would tell her.

“They come out every night, whether or not I can see them and whether or not you believe it. They stride through the night, picking this house, not picking this one, stopping at this one tonight and then skipping four blocks over the next night. Random. Lethal. You’ll never see them. Never hear them. When you’re sleeping alone in your bed thinking you’re having a nightmare, they will come. And don’t worry, doc. If they haven’t visited you yet, if there’s parts of your soul they haven’t charred black, don’t worry. They’ll come. They’ll move through your neighborhood like silent insect sentinels, and one of them will stop outside your window, and it will slip its leathery dick into your bedroom and into your skull, and it will impregnate you with the most vial, filthy, nasty things you’ve ever thought. And when you wake up it will be gone, and you’ll disregard it cause you’ll be sure it was just a bad dream. But the thoughts it left will still be inside of you, like eggs laid in your ear canal. Until one day they hatch, and you act them out. And maybe it will be something small and lazy. Something other people will tell you not to blame yourself for, but it will end in shame and regret and misery and death. I fucking promise you.”

“You’re staying up at night?” Laura asked, her face stoic and marble-like. “To watch for these creatures?”

Amber laughed. She didn’t know why. “You want me out there, doc. You need me out there. For you. For your family. Do you have kids, doc?”

“Untreated sleep deprivation can be lethal. Did you know that, Amber?” Laura asked.

“Not to humans. Just to lab rats. They’ve done studies.”

“It’s true,” Laura said. “no human has ever died in a laboratory sleep study. But there’s certain things scientists can do to rats that ethics won’t allow them to do to humans.”

“Cowards.” They’d rather get their beauty sleep and stay weak than face the stilt walkers.

Laura’s bleach-white eyes pleaded. “Amber, if you keep this up, it will kill you.”

“You’re all cowards.”

Joe Prosit

Joe Prosit writes sci-fi, horror, and psycho fiction. He has been previously published in Chantwood Magazine, The No Sleep Podcast, and Aphotic Realm Magazine. He lives with his wife and kids in the Brainerd Lakes Area of northern Minnesota. If you’re an adept stalker, you can find him on one of the many lakes and rivers or lost deep inside the Great North Woods. Or you can just find him on the internet at or follow him on Twitter, @joeprosit.

Serial Killers: Stilt Walkers. Part 1

  1. Serial Killers: Stilt Walkers. Part 1
  2. Serial Killers: Stilt Walkers. Part 2
  3. Serial Killers: Stilt Walkers. Part 3

Serial Killers are part of our Trembling With Fear line and are serialized stories which we’ll be publishing on an ongoing basis.

Little Buddy Lab Rat

Amber sucked in a quick gasp of air.

“Was I asleep?”

If she had drifted off, it hadn’t been for long. A dirty stuffed toy mouse sat in her lap having fallen from her fingers. The toy was a prize won from the arcade crane machine. She picked it up and dusted it off. “You’re supposed to keep me awake, Mister Jonesy. Don’t let me do that.”

Quiet suburban homes sat like uniform tombstones across the neighborhood from her perch. There were just a few floor plans in the whole development, each flipped, mirrored, turned and painted different colors to fake variation. This wasn’t her treehouse. The treehouse and split-entry below belonged to an old retired couple with no kids. But nobody used the treehouse besides her, so in a way, it kind of was hers. Her mom’s house, where she still lived, was a few blocks over. But this was one of her sentry posts she’d picked out to keep watch. To watch for them.

“See any of them yet, Jonesy?”

The mouse didn’t answer. Crickets and frogs sustained their midnight anthem of creeks and croaks.

She peered out from the treehouse and scanned the night. So far, all clear. There was no door or window at the back of the treehouse, and she considered removing a board from the back wall so she could see in all directions. But she was over eighteen now. A legal adult. That meant if she got busted for trespassing or vandalism, she’d get arrested for real. She couldn’t afford to get locked up, not in some windowless cell where it’d be too easy to sleep.

“Can’t sleep, Mister Jones. If we sleep, we get weak. We can’t see them and we sure as shit can’t stop them.”

The stuffed animal was clearly a mouse. Blue fur. Cute button nose. Round ears. Big smile. A furry tail that clung to the body by just a few threads. It wasn’t meant to be a rat, but that’s how she thought of it. Mister Jones, her little buddy lab rat.

“They’ll come, no matter what. But if we sleep there will be no one to see them, and no one to stop them. They’ll plant their bad ideas in our dreams, trick us into thinking they’re nightmares instead of mental poison. That’s how come people are evil, right Jonesy? All those bad thoughts injected into our brains at night. They’re behind it all. They got me once, Jonesy, but never again, huh?”

Jonesy smiled.

The wee hours ticked by, each second building up the abilities inside of her, abilities anyone might have, if only they had the guts. The guts, and the knowledge of what sleeplessness would bring. Late at night, when everyone else was tucked in their beds and her and Jonesy were the only ones still awake, the night would pull back its thin black veil and the stilt walkers would wander out.

“I know you’re with me, Mister Jones,” she slurred.

Jonesy was a rat, not a mouse, because they didn’t do sleep deprivation studies on mice. They used rats. They used rats and they put them in buckets half-full of water with only a little platform in the middle so when the rat tried to fall asleep it would fall off the platform and into the water and have to climb back onto the platform and learn to stay awake, indefinitely. That’s who Jonesy was. A partner in her self-imposed insomnia.

So what if she was an adult who talked to stuffed animals and hid out in treehouses all night? She knew what she was doing. Knew it was important. Knew she could save them all.

If she could just stay awake.

“I need my own water bucket, Jonesy,” she said and petted the rat. Caffeine got her by for a while. But inevitably came the crash. She needed something more reliable. More long term. She needed discipline.

If she’d been disciplined before maybe things would be different.

She arched her back. Yawned. Twisted her torso around to the left and right, popping a few vertebrae on the second twist. Daybreak was just an hour or so away. They never came out during the day. All the real bad ideas come at night. She looked through the treehouse doorway, then the little window to the right, then to her—

Amber froze. All she could hear were muffled sounds as if heard through wads of cotton and a high-pitched violin note. Her heart thumped like hooves in a stampede. Her fingernails dug into Jonesy.

The stilt walker traipsed down her street, two blocks over. Its torso, the shape of a blood-filled wood tick, seemed to float above the rooftops, weightless on the thin vertical spider legs. Its clusters of glistening eyes were obsidian and almost invisible against its black body, but she saw how it turned and focused on each house it passed. It was perusing, like an old woman shopping for a purse, slow and patient for just the right one. Javelin-sized whiskers protruded from under its mouth like a beard as it sniffed each house until it found the one it liked.

A split-entry with new plastic siding.

And kid’s toys in the yard.

“Mister— Mister Jo— Mister Jones…” she searched for air to fill her lungs and the strength to push it out.

The stilt walker pivoted around the split-entry, sniffing and looming near an upstairs window. It extended a black penial tube from under its body. The tube snaked down between its legs and out to feel the plastic siding like a blind man without a cane. The tip of the tube groped around the edges and crevasses until it found a cracked bedroom window. Then it slipped inside to do its business.


Oppression. Murder. Rape. War. Genocide. This is where those things came from. From the stilt walkers.

Like electricity applied to a machine, Amber’s nerves finally sparked. She scattered to her feet and out of the treehouse. The ladder, just two by fours nailed to the tree trunk, was half-rotted and half-swallowed by the growth of the trunk, but Amber knew which boards to put weight on and which ones to—

Her foot slipped on the dew-wet smooth wood. One hand lost grip of a board. Her other hand let go of Jonesy and flailed. Too late. She was suspended in a single moment that felt like zero gravity. A second ticked by. Then she hit and every square inch of air escaped her lungs. Stars exploded in her eyes. Mister Jonesy bounced off her chest and into the grass.

But she didn’t lose consciousness. Didn’t black out. Didn’t sleep.

Amber staggered up, dizzy, delirious, fighting to get air back into her lungs and panicked with the very real feeling that she might never breathe again. The fear didn’t subside so much as it was overwhelmed by her stronger need to accomplish the task at hand. A gate leading out the backyard was just across the lawn. She zombie-walked a few steps in its direction, her air coming back to her in short shallow gasps. Almost to the fence, she turned back.

“Huuuuup,” she sucked in air. “Jo— huuuuuuup. Jonesy. Huuuuuup.”

She ran back for the rat lying in the grass. As she picked him up, she got her first real breath. The stars faded from her vision.

“Come on, Jonesy. It’s not too late.”

Her feet shuffled and skipped through the wet grass to the gate. When she busted through, something about the action let her replenish her lungs, her strength, her vitality. Amber broke into a sprint, cutting across a street and through yards. Between houses, she saw the stilt walker again, looming outside of the cracked window. Its fleshy tube moved bulges down its length like a boa constrictor vomiting up a parade of mice.

“Hey!” she yelled at the stilt walker. Then, to anyone who might hear, “Wake up! It’s here! It’s poisoning you!”

She charged through the last pair of yards onto her street. She rounded the corner of the last house and jumped a curb-side rose bush. Her All Stars smacked against the blacktop and squeaked to a stop, one on either side of the yellow center line.

Amber shot out her palm, fingers splayed wide open, Jonesy held back close to her heart like a shield. Every ounce of wakefulness she’d saved up, every bit of strength left in her, she aimed it out through her palm towards the monster. She stood firm, her eyes crushed shut, teeth bared and clinched together, her lungs straining to pump air in rapid short breathes. Something glowed through her eyelids.

Brighter. Brighter. The wakefulness radiated out of her hand towards the stilt walker, warding it away from the house and the family inside. She was sure of it. Until she heard the screeching brakes of a car coming to run her down. The car lurched to a stop. She pried open an eye just a crack to see what she feared: the glow wasn’t coming from her, it was coming from a pair of damn headlights. The stilt-walker, hidden behind the glare of the lights had probably moved on to its next victim by now. She hadn’t created the glow, and she hadn’t stopped the monster.

“Hey, are you alright?” a man called from the car.

“Slept too much,” she mumbled, draining like a battery. “Have to save up more…”

She staggered, clutched Jonesy for support. Gravity went lopsided. Her upheld arm went limp. Her foot reached out for more stable terrain and failed to find it. Amber spilled down to the pavement and out of the shine of the two hi-beams. Jonesy bounced out of her hand. He landed butt down, facing her, the stitched on smile as permanent as his wakefulness.

“Damn it, Jonesy. We almost—“ A deep wheeze to pull in air. “—had him.”

Joe Prosit

Joe Prosit writes sci-fi, horror, and psycho fiction. He has been previously published in Chantwood Magazine, The No Sleep Podcast, and Aphotic Realm Magazine. He lives with his wife and kids in the Brainerd Lakes Area of northern Minnesota. If you’re an adept stalker, you can find him on one of the many lakes and rivers or lost deep inside the Great North Woods. Or you can just find him on the internet at or follow him on Twitter, @joeprosit.