Fiction: The Skitterer: An Impression of an Imaginary Companion

An essay by Titus Rodriguez, Ph.D., as provided by G. D. Watry
Art by Leigh Legler

Abstract: For decades, myriad parapsychologists have pondered the role of so-called “imaginary companions” (IC) in cases concerning poltergeist activity. Though we may theorize the rhyme and reason for it, children appear to amplify the poltergeist presence. Indeed, our own lab’s case studies, localized to the northwest pocket of New Jersey, indicate a positive correlation between quantifiable poltergeist activity and the presence of a child or children in the studied household.

In our experience, the events follow a trajectory. New occupants move into the house and an IC manifests. It induces interaction with the child or children. Cumulative contact appears to be key here, for each interaction strengthens the psychic bond between IC and adolescent/s. We’ve termed this relationship “cerebral parasitism,” and its effects are not limited to the psychological. Physical illness and disturbances often follow. Poltergeist activity crescendos. Pranks that were once innocuous turn perilous, and occupants often report experiencing psychological and physical torment at the behest of unseen beings. The Mayfield family may have been such a case.

Gwen Mayfield contacted the Rodriguez Lab on the morning of March 19, 2015, following what she believed to be a botched abduction of her son Tobias by an entity she called “the skitterer.” Ms. Mayfield and her son had recently moved into a new house at 8474 La Vela Avenue in the Borough of Sussex on March 14, 2015, following a falling out with her partner Arnold Recker, a known affiliate of The Coyote Moon (SEE INDEX ITEM “COYOTE MOON, THE; CULT”). The Coyote Moon boasts strong membership in the Borough of Sussex region, with members of the commune active in both municipal and policing roles.

After contact, the team performed an exploratory interview with Ms. Mayfield on March 21, 2015. The following is an audio transcript from that interview, which ended, to our displeasure, in an abrupt manner. Unfortunately, we were unable to schedule a follow-up interview with Ms. Mayfield. She and her three-year-old son Tobias disappeared. They were last seen by their neighbor Mrs. Lupe Galvan on the night of March 22, 2015. Mrs. Galvan recalled seeing the mother and child sitting silently in their backyard, “their hands clasped together as if in prayer and their heads upturned in deference towards the moon.”

We are at a loss, and this is an appeal for assistance.


[Selections from the audio transcript of Dr. Titus Rodriguez’s interview with Gwen Mayfield on March 21, 2015]

TR: And that’s when you noticed the crib was empty?

GM: H-he, he just wasn’t there anymore. I must’ve shut my eyes for just a second, but that’s all it took. One second, I’m lost in the grainy light from the baby monitor app on my iPhone, watching Tobe’s body rise and fall with his breath, and the next, I’m jolted awake, kicking back the grip of sleep, and he’s gone. The crib is empty, and he’s gone.

TR: And what did you do next?

GM: What did I do next? Jesus. You’re not a parent are you, doc?

TR: [No response.]

GM: I shot out of bed and looked like hell for him is what I did next. Nearly broke my ankle slipping on the hallway’s Persian carpet while sprinting to his room.

TR: Was he in there?

GM: What? No, no he wasn’t in there. Are you even listening?

TR: Apologies, Ms. Mayfield. I am listening. Continue.

GM: The crib was empty, but the jungle mobile above it played its jingle, a toy piano version of “Ring Around the Rosy.” The mobile activates via motion sensors, so something must’ve kicked it into gear. But it wasn’t Tobe. I’m sure of that. For a moment, I couldn’t move. I just stood there, watching the plush lions chase the monkeys round and round the four-leaf canopy. When I originally bought the mobile, I thought it was cute. But two nights ago, it just seemed–fierce. The lions bared their teeth, and the monkeys–oh, god—their faces. [Long pause.]

TR: How long did it take you to find Tobias in the driveway?

GM: [Sniffs. Coughs.] Probably 20 minutes. I tore the house apart; I mean, it’s not big a place, so there aren’t many places to look, and we’re practically still living out of boxes. I was checking again for him under the kitchen table when I noticed the door to the garage was open. Through the crack in the door, I could see the lawn lights from the house across the street.

TR: Why were you looking for Tobias under the kitchen table?

GM: It’s his favorite spot for hide-and-seek.

TR: Was it unusual that the door to the garage was open?

GM: Very. I always keep it locked. All the doors actually. Ever since the incident with Arnold.

TR: And that would be Arnold Recker?

GM: Yes, but as I said on the phone, we’re not discussing that.

TR: [No response.]

GM: Anyway, the next thing I know, I’m bounding through the garage, my mind swimming with visions of Tobe’s picture on the morning news, of pedestrians checking their phones in unison as an amber alert hits their inboxes. I don’t think I’ve ever screamed so loud. [Pause.] My mom always says I shouldn’t be a parent. [Long pause.]

TR: He was still there, Ms. Mayfield. You didn’t lose him.

GM: I almost did. I think I am. [Crying.]

TR: Ms. Mayfield, can you tell me what happened next?

GM: [Sniffs.] It’s like you said; he wasn’t gone. As soon as I peeled out into the moonlight, I saw him on the driveway. He sat in this strange position, almost like an obedient dog. I scooped him up as quickly as I could and hugged him to me tight. My little monkey. He felt limp in my grip, and I held him out by the shoulders, just to give him a once over. His head teetered, and his eyes rolled in their sockets. He looked dazed, like a drunk. That’s when I noticed his teeth were chattering and that his pajamas were damp with sweat. He collapsed in my arms almost immediately. Before he passed out, he said, “Mommy, the skitterer says I can be a monster too.”

TR: And who’s the skitterer?

GM: Tobe’s imaginary friend.

TR: [Mumbling.] Ms. Mayfield, I hate to interrupt, but my colleague tells me our audio equipment is experiencing some technical difficulties.

GM: Have you been recording any of this?

TR: Only partially.


TR: You noticed the discharge from his ears this morning?

GM: Yes, it was all gunky. White like bird shit, but thick like typical ear wax, and this stuff had specks of black and red in it too. I noticed it because Tobe’s got Bear in the Big Blue House crib sheets.

TR: If it’s possible, we’d like to get a sample of that for analysis. Where is Tobias now?

GM: [Pause.] He’s with my mom. She’s taking care of him.

TR: Would it be possible for us to see him?

GM: [Long pause.] You got that thing running now?

TR: [Coughs.] 1, 2–1, 2, 3, 4. Yes, we are recording. Would you like anything more before we start? Water?

GM: I’m fine.

TR: Okay. Ms. Mayfield, can you walk me through the incidents leading up to the night of March 18?

GM: You mean the freaky shit?

TR: Yes, the freaky shit.

GM: It started with little things pretty much from the first day we moved in. Tobe was outside playing in the front yard while I set up his room. A chainlink fence surrounds our lawn, so I wasn’t worried about him tumbling out into Route 15 traffic. Anyway, I’m a smoker, so after setting up his crib, I wanted to reward myself with a puff from the vape pen. I always keep it handy in my front shirt pocket, but when I reached for it, I came up empty-handed.

TR: And as you mentioned on the phone, you found the vape pen–

GM: I’m getting to it, doc. Jeez. Well, after some fruitless searching, I decided to delve into my backup pack of cigarettes. Figured I’d have one outside. It’d give me a moment to check in on Tobe. When I stepped out onto the deck, Tobe was sitting on the bench swing. That’s when I saw it. My vape pen was right next to him on the wooden bench. It struck me as odd, because I definitely would’ve heard Tobe enter the house. Our alarm system is one those ones that announces actions in a halting manner, like “Close. Front. Door.” And I definitely would’ve noticed Tobe stealing my vape pen. I may wear thick specs, but I ain’t blind. Anyway, Tobe blamed the skitterer. He said my lungs were filled with tar.

TR: That’s the other thing I wanted to ask, Tobias has become more vocal recently, hasn’t he? Since his encounter with the skitterer?

Childlike drawing of a monster in front of a forest.

Long-limbed and waxing, it always looks as if it’s rising above the forest, its snouted face as luminous as the moon.

GM: That’s right. He’s always been a quiet child. But recently, he started talking more. Not really words–well if they’re words, they’re not of the English variety. I’ll catch him in his room babbling incoherencies to empty space. He pauses too, like he’s in the midst of a conversation with someone and waiting for their reply. His drawings have changed too. He always used to draw stick figure equivalents of pastoral landscapes, with bright crayons smeared across the page. But lately, black’s been his favorite color. And what he draws–I think it’s the view of the surrounding woods from our backyard, but there’s always something hidden among the trees, the same figure. At first, it starts off as floating eyes in the wood, but the drawings are sequential, see. In each new picture, the figure inches closer and closer to our house. Long-limbed and waxing, it always looks as if it’s rising above the forest, its snouted face as luminous as the moon.

TR: This is the skitterer.

GM: That’s what I assume.

TR: [Mumbling.] –what I’m telling you is I don’t think we need to rush it.

GM: Everything alright?

TR [Mumbling.] –I understand; fine. Ms. Mayfield, can you tell us about your association with Mr. Recker? Is he Tobe’s father?

GM: [Pause.] Thought I said we weren’t gonna talk about him.

TR: Please, Ms. Mayfield, just follow my thoughts for a moment. My team and I, we’re familiar with Mr. Arnold Recker. He’s actually been on our radar for quite some time.

GM: That exit sign above your head gets greener with every word, Doc.

TR: Just wait. We know about his membership in The Coyote Moon’s high council.

GM: [No response.]

TR: We also know that up until the start of this month, you and your son lived in one of the cabins on The Coyote Moon commune’s property, near Liminal Lake. Let me be frank, Ms. Mayfield, there’s been a pattern, one that concerns me and my colleagues. Since The Coyote Moon’s arrival in the Borough of Sussex, there’s been a surge in poltergeist activity in the region.

GM: Poltergeist? [Sound of metal chair grating against tile floor.] Boy, you eggheads really are out of your depth with this one, aren’t you? To think I thought y’all could help me. [Sound of footsteps. Sound of door opening.]

TR: Please, Ms. Mayfield, something’s happening. We’d be grateful for any light you can shed on The Coyote Moon for us.

GM: [Muffled.] Unfortunately for you, Doc, I don’t control the light of the moon. And neither do you.

TR: Fuck. [Pause.] I told you we shouldn’t push it.



Postscript: By publishing this transcript we hope to spark some recognition in at least one of Mad Scientist Journal‘s readers. Gwen Mayfield was right to say my colleagues and I are out of our depth on this case. We utterly are. Since the disappearance of Gwen and Tobias, each of my team members has been plagued by the same dream of an impossibly tall creature loping high above the forest in the middle of the night. Those of us with children have noticed shifts in their behavior. Just this morning, my seven-year-old daughter approached me–her gait rigid, her face catatonic–with a new picture she drew for our refrigerator. The creature’s limbs are so long. I have no doubt it can reach into our houses. Below the cartoon image, my daughter wrote a caption: “The skitterer says we can be monsters too.”

Titus Rodriguez, Ph.D., is a research scientist at a stealth startup in the Hudson Valley. Before jumping to industry, he was a faculty member at The Barron Institute’s Center for Cognitive Psychology and Behavioral Neuroscience.

G. D. Watry is a writer from California. His work has appeared in Pantheon Magazine, Hinnom Magazine, OCCULUM, Shotgun Honey, Third Flatiron Publishing, and The Molotov Cocktail, among other publications. You can find him on Twitter @GDWatry.

Leigh’s professional title is “illustrator,” but that’s just a nice word for “monster-maker,” in this case. More information about them can be found at

“The Skitterer” is © 2019 G. D. Watry
Art accompanying story is © 2019 Leigh Legler

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