The Tempter Comes

6) The Angst-Feeders


6         The Angst-feeders


Anxiety escapes our body in twitches, glances, sweat, clamminess, and grunts.

There are some things that do not want that to go to waste.



 Toni waited until they at least finished their sandwiches. She did not want to have a serious conversation with olive loaf hanging out of her mouth. “So what’s going on?” she finally asked.

“What do you mean?” Thomas tried to sound calm, but he had a feeling that she knew something and that she was going to keep shaking the can until he spilled the beans, but he did not know if he should say anything this quickly. He did not want her to think that he had gone crazy or was on drugs. But he knew what he had seen and he could not keep it in forever, especially if she found him on the couch every night or with clothes decorating the lamp.

“Well, where should I start? How about your sleeping on the couch last night. You’ve never sleepwalked before. I don’t think that most people decide to pick up that habit when they’re thirteen.”

“Some might, you know. A lot of people develop weird habits when they get older.”

“And you’ve been awfully quiet and distracted at times. Usually when you get here you’re like a balloon filled with excitement. Did something bad happen at home before you left?”

“No, it’s nothing like that.”

“So it is something then, just not ‘like that.’”

Thomas realized that he had been caught, but in a big way he was glad. He really wanted to tell Toni about the two incidents. He needed to find out if he was the only one or if he was just plain crazy. Teenage hormones will do strange things; however, hallucinations are generally not one of them. It appeared that now was the time.


Toni leaned in, “Yes?”

It’s kind-of well, umm, I don’t know, well.”

“Look if you don’t tell me already I’m going to throw a rope over that branch and hang myself. This doesn’t have anything to do with a greasy secretion, does it?”

“What?” Thomas was taken back. “Where did that come from?”

“It’s a side effect of some medicine they were advertising. Forget it. So then what is it?”

“OK, OK, here goes.” He inhaled very slowly. Just like with cold water in a lake, he was going to have to take a deep breath and take the plunge. “The first night that I was here I woke up suddenly in the middle of the night and thought that there was someone crouching on the floor staring at me. It was only a second and after I turned on the light, I looked around and there wasn’t anybody there. It seemed so real, but I figured that it was just a really bad nightmare. It was a long bus trip and I was quite tired so I thought that anything was possible. It really wigged me out, though. That explains the coat on the lamp.” He managed a forced half-smile.

Thomas did not notice because he was too focused on recreating those images in his mind but Toni had gotten quite pale and still. She was not saying anything or moving a single muscle in her face.

Thomas glanced very quickly at her and when he saw that she was not going to react right away he went on although he was glad for the lack of an interruption. At this point he had passed the point of no return and needed to get it all out. “The second night I was feeling quite good from the picnic and didn’t think about it much. But the third night I was really apprehensive about going back to bed. It seemed that the night came on like a full-speed train screaming out of a tunnel. As I climbed the stairs to my room I felt more and more sick with anxiety. I managed to crawl into bed (it was no small accomplishment, I tell you) and turn off the light. OK, it took a while, but eventually I did turn off the light. I thought that was rather brave, don’t you? I even managed to fall asleep. But then I suddenly woke up and opened my eyes…and there it was again. But this time I got a little bit longer of a look and so I knew that I wasn’t seeing things. But then, once again, it was gone.” He looked at the picnic table for a few seconds. No one spoke. She continued to stare at him as though she was a mastodon frozen in ice for a thousand years. “But I know that I saw it… or him… or her.”

With trepidation, he looked up at her. “Well, do you think that I’m a) crazy or b) really crazy?”

He looked at her for a few seconds. Then he knitted his eyebrows. She did nothing but stare at him. He cocked his head, “Hello?”

Realizing that she was being forced to respond broke her out of her spell. Hesitatingly she said, “Are you sure? Did you really see one of them?”

“Them? Them?” Thomas replied. “You know what I’m talking about?”

“Well, yes,” Toni answered slowly and then said nothing for a few seconds. Thomas could tell by the way that her eyes were swaying back and forth that she was in deep thought. He knew that he was about to find out something and so could wait those extra few seconds.

“Yes, I do know what they are,” she finally said “or at least what we all think that we know about them. They are called the night-creepers or angst-feeders. They don’t seem to come that often, but we have all heard about them. Many have experienced them although not many have actually seen them.”

“Night-creepers? Angst-feeders? Those aren’t exactly heartwarming names. Who or what are they?”

“We aren’t entirely sure but we do have, what we believe to be, mention of them from over a thousand years ago. They are only seen at night and are just as you described them. They have large, completely black eyes, probably to see better at night. Some believe that they never blink. They are unusually pale, perhaps even bloodless. They have long, straight black hair. Some say that they wear a dark robe with the hood pulled up. Others insist that it is more like a white nightgown. Most claim that they are female, almost like young girls, but that is in dispute. Maybe it is because they are small and have the long hair. The general consensus is that they are neither male nor female. In fact, it’s pretty sure that they aren’t even human.”

“Not human? Then what are they? What do they do?” Thomas was turning rather pale himself.

“They create anxiety and then feed off of it, hence one of their names—the angst-feeders. They will stare at you for hours on end night after night just inches from your face watching and evaluating every twitch, every grimace. They are trying to figure out what causes you tension and anxiety and once they figure that out then they work it and grow it and feed off of it. Some will get up right into your face and watch every tiny muscle spasm, even those that you would not be able to see yourself even if you were staring at yourself in a mirror in broad daylight. Others gently, almost imperceptibly, run their long, thin fingers over your skin feeling changes in body temperature or slight twitches sometimes hovering for hours on the same spot. Still others will imperceptibly lick the sweat off of your arm tasting for different chemicals; their tongues not even touching your skin. They all listen for groans, murmurs, to your talking in your sleep, anything that might indicate what you are thinking, what is causing you fear.”

“But how can they figure out what anxieties I have just by watching me?”

“We can tell what someone’s anxieties are by watching them. We see signs like tension in the facial muscles or breathing heavily. There may be an occasional grimace. A person might get defensive around certain subjects or look slightly more wild-eyed and paranoid. They may get beads of sweat on their upper lip or comb their hair through their fingers when they are nervous. They may talk faster or stutter. There are many different signs that warn us when someone is anxious and we don’t have to be around some people for very long at all before we can tell what puts fear into their heart.

“The night-creepers have been doing this for millenniums. They don’t need anything as obvious as fingers drumming on a tabletop. They can learn much from a momentary tick in your eye or a slight rise in body temperature or sweat that is minutely saltier. And they are very patient. They can watch you for many, many nights, gathering bits of fear, sampling your tensions. And they know how to add to those anxieties, to multiple them, to spread them like a cancer. And then they feed on them.”

“This is all rather unnerving; I don’t think that I’ll ever be able to sleep again. I mean, how can I go to sleep when I know that one of them will show up and stare at me all night?” Thomas shuddered. He crossed his arms in front of him and rubbed his shoulders.

Toni looked off to the side for a few seconds. Then she turned back. “You’re not the only one lately. I’ve heard from the pastor that a number of people have been coming to him these last few weeks complaining about feeling anxious. A few even think that they may have seen one of them, but they weren’t sure.”

“But where do they go? How come I didn’t see them but for a second after I opened my eyes?”

“They hate to be seen. The fear that they feed on must be from inside of you; it must be your own. If your fear comes from seeing them then it is not a fear that they can consume. The writings tell that their mouth is a black void. So when they are seen they open it wider and wider with great speed getting so large that the blackness obscures their body until they are completely shrouded and then in an instant the void collapses and they are gone. Where they go, no one knows. Perhaps they have returned to the churning abyss where they dwell.”

“Churning abyss?” He paused while it all sunk in. “My word, that is horrible.” Thomas was greatly disturbed. He was sweating and his hands were vaguely trembling. “How… how do they get into the room? Can I put a chair against the door or something to keep them out? Maybe I should close and lock the window.”

“Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. No one knows how they get into someone’s room. They don’t enter through doors or windows; we know that much. We don’t even know how they move. Some stories tell of them silently pulling themselves along the floor as though their legs are paralyzed. Others, though, claim that they’ve seen them crouching on the edge of the bed staring down at them. However they move, it does not seem as though walls and doors are an obstacle. It seems that they just appear, probably in the same way that they can just disappear. It’s like they come and go from a world beyond our own.”

Thomas was thinking that he is never going to get any sleep the entire time that he is here. He was wondering how long it would be before he would die. No one can spend three months wide-awake. He figured, though, that he would probably first go crazy and so death would be just another strange event. He remembers hearing about people who stayed awake for days at a time. It was never a pretty story although the hallucinations were rather cool, but that was because it was happening to them. Now it was happening to him. No one else’s problem ever seems that big until it becomes your problem. Finally he said, “But why me? And why now?”

“Is there anything going on right now that you are especially worried about?”

“I’m thirteen years old. That means that I’m worried about everything; it goes with the territory,” Thomas replied somewhat exasperated.

“As far as any of us know they don’t come around all that often. It’s not like there’s a horde of them that roams through everyone’s houses every night. They must sense something in you. Is there anything in particular that you have been more worried about than usual?” asked Toni.

“Well, yea, probably.” Thomas was not exactly being forthcoming. After a momentary pause he veered off, “So is there anything that I can do about them? Can I keep them away? I don’t exactly want to get onto a first name basis with them. If they like the dark so much then maybe I can just keep my light on. That should scare them off.”

“Being in the light is always a good thing, but they aren’t going to be so easily overcome by a 60 watt light bulb. Once you fall asleep they can just turn the light off anyway.”

“They can turn the light off!? How can they do that?”

“Well, Thomas, it’s not like they’re ghosts. They do seem to have substance. Keeping the light on may help a little but from what we’ve been told there is only one thing that seems to keep them away.”

Thomas leaned forward. This was the first decent thing that he’s heard today. “And that is what? Is it garlic? Is it a crucifix?”

“They’re not vampires. It’s prayer.”

“Prayer? That’s it?”

“They feed on anxiety. Prayer calms us down. It reassures us that we are not alone; that we have a strong foundation on which to stand and a stronger God. When we pray with sincerity and gratitude we get a peace that we cannot understand. It transcends our logic and circumstances. The angst-feeders hate that. But prayer is not like a silver bullet. It’s not like we pray once and ‘poof’ they’re all gone. I’m also not talking about kneeling at the side of the bed and folding our hands and praying, ‘Now I lay me down to sleep.’ This must be a heartfelt, personal prayer. It has to be more than words; it must be communion. Only then will they vanish.”

“I need help. Will you prayer for me?”

“Of course. But ultimately your peace will come only when you pray. My prayers can strengthen you so that you can do what you should.”

“I should have thought of that,” Thomas said. “That’s true.”

“That’s why we’re all here for each other. Now come on, we’d better get home; it’s almost dinnertime. And then tomorrow after church, there’s something I want to show you outside of town.”

Copyright Bob La Forge 2011        email: