A few months ago one of my closest friends at work and I realized our feelings were growing into something more than just a friendship. In our company it’s frowned upon to date coworkers. Technically not against the rules, but frowned upon. When we decided to take our relationship to the next level we decided it was best for both of us to keep it private, at least for a while.
He lived out in the country. Over 40 minutes away from work and where I lived. It was perfect. He was so far out and in the middle of nowhere we could stay out there and go into the little town nearby without worry of being caught by chatty coworkers. The only real problem was that we both work night shifts. I almost always work at midnight and he usually works at 4am. That led us to a lot of commuting in the pitch black that can only be seen on country roads. I always enjoyed the drive. I am a lover of the dark. A true night owl to my core. I loved the drives both when we were together and when I drove in on my own. Somedays I’d work a half shift and then drive out to his house on his days off and crawl into bed with him. Those were always my favorite drives.
He lived with some of his family in a large home on an enormous parcel of land. It sprawled for acres up a large hill with a pasture and further up thickly wooded forest. I always felt safe there. There were guns strategically placed around the house and enough space between any other house that you could do just about whatever you wanted without anyone calling the cops or knocking on your front door to tell you to keep it down. I always loved that. The privacy of it all. I joked on several occasions that the only downfall would be if you needed medical or any other emergency services that it would take them forever to get out there and once they did they might not even be able to find the place.
The first time we made love was a few weeks after we started seeing each other. It was on a dark cool night when there was a meteor shower. We carried a giant pile of blankets out to top of the pasture, just before the woods and laid down. We made a little bed there and curled up under the blankets to watch the show. After an hour or so of talking and holding hands things escalated. Just as things were staring to get heated I had the oddest feeling of being watched. It felt like something in the distance just out of view was watching. My entire body shuddered. I tried to shake the feeling , convince myself it was nothing more than the cold making me shudder and perhaps an animal in the barn, or maybe even just an owl having a look to see where the noise was coming from. I let myself believe that so it wouldn’t ruin my night.
That night, and many nights to follow I was plagued with horrible nightmares. Ones I couldn’t explain or understand. It felt like being watched. Being watched in a way I couldn’t explain. I almost felt like if I could just stay asleep for just one more minute I could see what it was that was so interested in me. I often woke up in a pool of sweat, tears steaming down my face. The relationship was still new and I didn’t want him to think I was crazy, so I kept it to myself. At some point i realized it only ever happened out there. I slept dreamlessly in my own bed. I began to sleep over less and less over the next couple of months as the dreams only became more vivid. That is until I realized I was afraid to sleep alone. The dreams began to haunt my waking life as well.
One night I fell asleep before him. He was watching tv and having a couple beers when he said he heard me. I had been whimpering in my sleep and when he walked over to check on me he could see the tears rolling down my cheeks. He shook me and shook me, saying my name louder after each effort. When I awoke it was all of a sudden and with a scream. I’m not sure who it scared more. He told me the moment I opened my eyes they locked onto his and I look possessed, or haunted. That I looked like my soul was not in my body. He was visibly shaken by the experience. At this point I felt obligated to explain to him how it had been going on for months, that I couldn’t sleep, that the feeling was everywhere.
The dreams weren’t all of it though. As I was driving, especially to his house I began to feel watched. Like something just out of the scope of my headlights was waiting for me…Lurking just beyond the vale. One night when the moon was full I could have sworn I saw something out there amongst the trees.
My life has been turned upside down. The lack of sleep has been affecting me in ways I didn’t even realize it could. I have no appetite, and I’ve stopped caring about my appearance. I sometimes go days without changing from my boyfriends oversized hoodie. My work has begun to slip. I’m afraid something bad is going to happen any day. I am a ghost of the person I once was all because of a feeling. No, more than a feeling. Something is there.
My loving boyfriend has been incredible through all this. He might think I’m losing my mind but he’s known me long enough to know I wouldn’t just make something like this up. He’s been doing everything he can to help. His initial suggestion was to get blackout drunk. One that with all the stress in my life I was happy to try. Still, the dreams. Only it was worse that night. I had even more trouble pulling myself out of the dream that night. It felt like whatever was watching me was able to get even closer, so close in fact I could smell it. The thick musty smell of decay and death loomed heavy as I awoke. I was barely able to lean over the bed before puking violently all over the hardwood floor and my slippers.
I have also tried sleeping pills, meditation, herbal supplements, and exercise. Nothing has worked. I’m afraid to sleep alone because if I can’t wake myself up someone has to be there to make sure it doesn’t get me. He tried to convince me to go see a psychiatrist but I refused. That’s when he made the suggestion of trying to find a forum online for other people who couldn’t sleep. Seek help from the same place any good millennial would, the Internet. I looked and looked, browsing forum after forum. Begging for advice from anyone who had the slightest idea about what I was experiencing. Most everyone I talked with seemed to think it was one of two things: sleep paralysis, or a mental breakdown they attributed to early onset of a mental disorder. That is until very late one night as I sat in my truck waiting for it to heat up. I scrolled through yet another forum and saw a picture. The worst picture I have ever seen in my entire life. The face was almost like a deer’s skull but sharper, angrier looking. It had a humanoid shape except everything about it was longer. It must have been about seven or eight feet tall but it’s limbs were all much to long. The arms stretching down long past the midpoint of the body and the long horrible hands stretching out beyond that. It was cloaked in black so the torso and legs were only a shroud of black making it impossible to tell what horrors were beneath the darkness. The worst part was the eyes, truly soulless eyes. There was no pigment, no iris, no pupil, only blank white orbs staring out from the skull. But somehow even still they were watching me and I knew that was the thing that had been there all those months. The longer I looked the thicker the smell became. It was so strong I could taste it. It filled my nose and mouth, choking me. My head was spinning as I began to gasp for air against the putrid smell of rotting corpse. Just before I passed out I saw the caption under the photo, “they’re watching you. They’re waiting for you.”
About twenty minutes later I was awoken by a loud thumping on my window. I had passed out and a coworker saw me “sleeping” in my truck and was going to scare me. It turns out they were the one who ended up being scared. There was puke down the front of my shirt and dried blood under my nose. Evidently I looked dead. I explained that it was just a migraine and swiftly drove off.
On the way to my boyfriends my phone died making the dark drive seem even lonelier and more frightening. Silence gives your brain to much space to think. There’s no radio signal out that far so I drove in silence. I was horrified at what I had seen but under that was a layer of relief. I wasn’t crazy. As I drove on I also felt that I wasn’t alone.
When I made it out to his place I ran upstairs to his room and plugged my phone in. Then, violently shook him awake exclaiming that I might have somewhere to start digging. He got one look at me and immediately sent me to shower and brought his favorite pajama pants and a big soft t-shirt down to the bathroom for me. He leaned against the sink opposite the shower while I got cleaned up and talked soothingly to me. Almost like you would talk to a fussy child you were trying to lull back to sleep. For the first time in months I felt safe. I was going to find out what was going on. I had an idea now. Somewhere to begin.
I went to show the image I had found to my boyfriend but I couldn’t find it again. It was nowhere. The forum i had been in didn’t even seem to exist. I was hysterical. I KNEW what I had seen. I have searched endless hours trying to find it again but it was gone forever, lost in the web. I can’t even find a mention of something similar. I tried to explain what I had seen but there isn’t a way to describe the way it made me feel, or that awful smell drowning me. To a logical person none of this makes any sense. My boyfriend was no exception but his love for me let him break away from that to at least explore the possibility that I was being watched by this demon, this monster, this… Thing.
Last night there was a full moon. Not just any full moon, a full moon on the summer solstice. It was rare and beautiful, the giant moon lighting up the sky above me. The air was crisp and cool as I started my truck. I began to drive for my boyfriend’s house just after 4am with the moon high above me. The extra light was nice on the winding back country roads. Then I began to feel it again the dark terrifying feeling I’ve been getting or months. It gets worse and worse every time. I can only imagine it’s because it’s getting closer to me, to whatever it is that it wants. I felt the dark horror flood over me and I began to slow my truck down to a crawl. Just beyond any corner, hiding just behind the trees it could be there. I thought I saw something move just around a slight turn in the road and slammed on my breaks. I came to a screeching stop in the middle of the road. I could feel my heart slamming against my rib cage trying to break free. There was a loud noise and lights behind me, and then in front of me as a huge white semi truck swerved around me going at least 70 miles an hour. I looked back into the woods where I had seen the monster that follows but it was just blackness and trees illuminated by my high beams. I flicked on my hazard lights and sat catching my breathe for just a moment. It seemed as though I had narrowly avoided death twice in the span of a few minutes.
That’s when I heard it. The most horrible noise I have ever heard. It was all metal scraping, smashed glass, and what I can only describe as crunching. Hearing it hurt my head. It was as if there was so much going on my brain couldn’t process it all at once. Gathering what I had left of my courage I decided to see if I could figure out what had happened. I drove slowly up around a corner and saw nothing, then another, and another. That’s when I saw it. Less than a mile from where I had stopped my truck, in the road was the semi. It had rolled completely blocking the road. It looked like it had rolled several times before eventually landing upside down across the road. There was glass and blood everywhere. Far too much blood to lose and still be alive. I parked my truck and slowly approached the mangled cab of the semi. I could smell it again, that awful smell of rotting corpse, of decomposing organic matter, of that monster. But then I began to see them, deer. There were at least three that I could see… Or at least pieces of what must have been at least three deer. I was the first on scene to the most brutal one car accident I had ever seen.
I did what I could to help, called 9-1-1, checked on the driver but there was nothing I could do but to make sure that the semi wasn’t going to burst into flames. As I stood there waiting for emergency services to show up I saw it again. The monster, the demon, whatever you want to call it. It was there, watching me just like always. I could smell it getting closer and closer to me. I stared out at it making contact with its deep soulless eyes. In that moment I felt almost comfortable with it, almost pulled towards it. It began to slowly move towards me, not walk, not run, just… move. It was drawing me towards it and I obliged. I was so tired and so done with being scared that I just did what it wanted. I walked slowly towards it, the terror in my chest subsiding. I turned away for just a second as I heard the ambulance approaching and it was gone. The monster had left me just like that.
I haven’t slept. The dreams are worse than ever. It’s face haunts me day in and day out. Tormenting me. Beckoning me into the woods. I know what it wants now. It wants me. I just… I don’t know why or for what purpose. Does it want to kill me? Or did it save my life? I need answers. So, in my last attempt at finding help I reach out to you… Do you know what this thing is? What does it want with me? Can I get rid of it? Please help. Please God help me… I don’t want to go into the woods but I don’t know if I can resist it much longer. I don’t want to go into the woods. I don’t want to go into the woods. I don’t want to go…
I had been in the apartment about 6 months when I started to see them. They should’ve scared me but they didn’t. The only thing I felt at first, as I recall, was fascination. To me it seemed as though it were happening to someone else. It was as if I were watching them on TV from very far away. In those moments I felt detached from my body. Looking back it seems to me I was under a sort of spell. Or perhaps there was something about my mind that allowed me to accept their existence contrary to all life’s normalcy I had experienced up to that point. However one looks at it, I should’ve been afraid.
I think my dachshund noticed them first. Actually I’m sure of it. Before then he was extremely quiet; he never barked and only whined when I left him alone. That’s why it was unusual when he began barking at seemingly nothing. At first I thought he was hearing rustling from the neighbors or people on the street. I guess that’s what I thought for quite a while until I saw one of them as the dog began barking directly at it.
They were fast when they wanted to be. I didn’t see much, just a dark, cat-sized blur. In hindsight, I don’t think I ever saw their real form, if they even have one, because they always looked different. One minute they were the size of a mouse then they seemed to envelope the entire room. I tried to tell myself they were just shadows but I could feel them. They had substance. It was as if, whatever part of my body they touched became part of them. That part of my body became cold then colder then numb then it wasn’t a part of me at all, it was theirs. As they retracted back into the wall that part of me they touched slowly came back to me. No, that’s not right. I was never the same after they touched me that first time. I’m not sure, it’s all so confusing now.
They weren’t ghosts. I thought maybe they were but now I’m sure they weren’t. Whatever they were, once they touched me they were able to follow me out of the apartment and into the real world. Maybe they hid in my pockets. All I know is I started seeing them everywhere. They would ooze through the slats in the blinds and block out the sun. They would darken alley ways to total darkness and slide through the mortar consuming the facades of the buildings I passed. If I had been afraid from the start; if I wouldn’t have let them touch me, then I would’ve left and I’d still have my dog.
No one believes me. Sometimes I think I’m crazy but where is the dog? Everyone thinks I just lost him but I didn’t. I don’t think I did. I’m sure they took him. The dog isn’t the only one. There were others taken, strangers and acquaintances. They were there one day, gone the next; there one minute, gone the next. No one knew who I was talking about when I asked what happened to them.
“Who?” They’d ask.
“That lady who was making copies right behind us 60 seconds ago,” I’d say.
“I didn’t see her,” or “I don’t know who you’re talking about.” It was always the same.
Sometimes I’d think I just didn’t see them walk away but then it would happen in an elevator and the person behind me would just disappear without the door opening on any floor. And sometimes in the middle of small talk; in the middle of a sentence, they’d vanish. I never seemed to be looking directly at them so I never saw it happen. But I felt the cold and something like static cling that made my hair raise and my flesh goose all over. I felt the vacuous suck of their going and then they were just gone. I never knew them personally which made it seem like I was hallucinating and I certainly thought I was crazy often enough.
Every time they would go, there was something in my peripheral vision that was nearly recognizable. Like Déjà vu or when you have a word on the tip of your tongue. There was something so familiar right as they were being taken.
I get the feeling that I knew the people who were taken. People that I was close to but because they were taken I can’t remember them. Perhaps that Déjà vu sensation is my memory of that person slipping away. I can’t even say with certainty that anything happened as I have no firm memories of these missing strangers except my dog. Maybe that’s because I really did lose my dog on my own. I was so busy trying to understand what was happening around me that I neglected to pay close enough attention to him. But, no, he was in the apartment with me the last time I saw him. I can’t remember them taking him but I’m sure they did. I’m sure of it.
It seems like a dream now but I think I went to that place to get my dog back. I let them envelope me whole. There was a woman there. I can’t recall anything about her. I know that I felt that I knew her. She was my wife. But that can’t be right, I’m not married. I never found the dog and I don’t know how I got back. Maybe it was a dream.
One day I awoke to find I was already in the bathroom getting ready for work. When I opened the bathroom door there I was with a Q-tip jammed in my ear. I didn’t seem to notice myself. I was confused but not scared. I should’ve been scared. Why wasn’t I scared? I should’ve been scared out of my mind during this whole time in my life but I wasn’t. I was constantly trying to retrace my steps to recall how I got to each bizarre moment.
I got dressed and followed myself out of the house and got into the back seat of the car and rode with me to work. I followed myself around all day, saying nothing, just observing. No one seemed to notice me except the woman in the elevator. She didn’t see me at first but then she did a double take in my direction. She gasped and backed up against the back of the elevator but there wasn’t a back to the elevator any more. It was just an empty void now. She seemed to fall in slow motion into the void and disappear. I had tried to reach for her, to save her but in a second she was gone. She slipped, totally silently, into the darkness. The other me glanced over his shoulder and looked shocked to be staring at an empty elevator. I started to tell him that I had tried to save her but then I remembered that he couldn’t see or hear me so I mumbled and fell back against the wall. I told myself that this was probably a dream anyway and not to worry. I followed myself home, watched myself eat dinner, watched myself watch TV, watched myself feed and walk the dog and then I watched myself go to bed. I slept on the couch and when I awoke the next day I was in my bed, I was alone and the dog was gone.
Every remnant of him was gone. There was no food or water bowl. There was no dog hair, dog toys, leash or anything else one might associate with owning a dog. There were no pictures. It was as if I had never owned him or as if he had never been at all.
What was I doing in the street? I was watching myself, through the blinds from my bedroom window. It was definitely me and I was walking my dog. I watched myself approach my building and disappear from view. I waited for the sound of the key in the lock. I waited for the door to open. Nothing happened. I was alone.
I went to the bathroom mirror and stared intently at myself. I turned my head slowly from side to side, never breaking eye contact. I mimicked myself perfectly. It was almost as if it were just a reflection. Maybe it was just a reflection. I saw one of them in the mirror slipping down the shower curtain like black beads of water. I turned the light off and returned to bed.
On another occasion I opened a book that was lying on my coffee table. It had no title or wording of any kind on the spine or the cover. I supposed it was a journal but I had never seen it before. I flipped through it and could see written words; my hand writing. I hadn’t written my name on the inside cover but I was sure it was my writing. There was one blank page then the entries began. There were indentation and paragraph breaks but no page numbers. I began to read.
I began to read about myself and the dog and the things that lived in the walls. I read about the disappearance of the strangers and following myself to work. I read about my wife. She had lived here with me. It was just the three of us. Why don’t I remember her? I shut the book. I felt in that moment that my life was a dream, that I had been asleep. I felt miles away from myself. One of the things oozed from the wall toward me.
Inside its black dimensions I could see nothing. It was as if a hole were floating across the room, over surfaces, consuming everything it touched only to expel it immediately as it moved ever closer. I was mesmerized. It was like looking into the part of my brain that creates dreams. It’s form was relatively stable but there was a vastness to its innards that made my head swim with thoughts of space and infinity. I began to panic as a drowning sensation slowly choked me. It seemed to take forever for the creature to find me. The light dimmed and the apartment stretched in slow motion. The thing slipped onto the table and swallowed the book. It barely touched my knee and began to recede back to its cave in the wall. The book was gone. The light flickered and I thought I saw my dog in the strobe. I blinked and he was gone. I was alone again.
That night I had a dream about being married. We did everything together. She was my friend. We didn’t fight. It seemed so familiar yet it was like watching the events of someone else’s life. None of her features seemed to stay constant. She was always pretty but everything was in constant flux. Every time I thought I had a good look at her it was as if someone dropped a pebble into water causing ripples in my memory. Still though, I had the sense of loving her very much and missing her terribly. It was a memory of a memory of grief. Then she walked into the wall where one of them manifested. I wanted to stop her but I couldn’t move; I couldn’t speak. I watched in horror and sadness as the blackness took her. She was gone. I was alone again.
As I stared after her, trying to will her back, I began to think about the void; the nothingness. I tried to imagine nothingness and couldn’t, even though it seemed I had a perfect example right in front of me. I couldn’t blink and I couldn’t move. The longer I stared the darker it became. Blackness began to crowd in around me. I began to panic and sweat. My heart began to race. Eventually I regained myself and I could move but I was inside the blackness now. I was consumed. I was on the couch I had been on in my living room with my wife. I could see myself and the couch clearly but there was nothing else. It was black as pitch and just as infinite. I stood and walked in the direction she went.
I thought I’d walk on and on forever. It didn’t feel like a dream any more. In fact this felt more real than anything I can remember. I was inside me and very sure of the space I took up. I felt blood flow through my veins and my pulse beat in my wrist. It was a strange combination of elation and sadness. I had a sense of my own realness; my own being but it hardly mattered now that I was lost to the world. I walked on.
I came to a door. I saw it as a thin vibrating rectangle in the distance; the way a mirage on a deserted highway on a moonless night might appear. The door was simple; white with four panels and a brass knob. I turned the knob and walked through. I was in an empty square room. There were four windowless, white walls, a wooden floor, a chair and a table. A single bulb hung over the table illuminating the room well enough. On the table was a single volume. It was the book that disappeared from my coffee table. I opened it. It was empty. There was a pen. I sat down and began to write.
“Don’t you wish you wouldn’t have done that?“ an unfamiliar voice asked me.
I rose my head, but I was blindfolded. I tried to move my hand, my leg, my finger – anything at this point – but it seemed that I was completely paralyzed.
“Victoria,“ the creature (I hardly believe it is human) whispered in my ear. “Why?“
“Please,“ I cried. “I don’t know what I’ve done! Where am I? What do you want?“
I heard a loud knock on the door and I could sense the creature got a little nervous.
“I will come for you!“
I heard another knock and then my body started to shake.
“Vicky! Wake up,“ I heard my mother’s voice. “You need to get ready for school.“
I looked around. I was in my room again. I was able to move, I was able to see. Everything was back to normal. Even though I knew I just had a bad dream, I couldn’t stop tears running down my face as soon as my mother turned her back.
I was always superstitious and I always believed there is a meaning behind every action, every fear and every dream. I believed in karma and in life after death. So, I couldn’t let go of the fact ‘it was just a dream’, because I felt in my bones that there has to be something behind that. Maybe nothing paranormal or supernatural. Just something in my subconscious that is bothering me.
After I’ve had breakfast and left for school, I didn’t worry as much as I did earlier. I met my friend Lisa and we walked together to our classes. We talked a little about what we did over the weekend. I, as usual, stayed at home, learning for the upcoming exams.
We separated in the school hallway soon after the bell rang and as I was going down the hallway to my classroom, I noticed I am completely alone. I turned around to double check, and there was no one to be seen. Nothing unusual, I was already a bit late for class, but being alone after having such terrible dream made me panic. I started running and quickly reached for the door handle, before the teacher shut the door.
“How many times do I have to tell you this,“ Mrs. Lovegood started. “When the bell rings you have to be behind your desk and NOT on your way to the classroom.“
“I- I’m sorry.“ I sincerely apologized and then sat behind my desk.
I was always a good student, sometimes maybe a bit late, but I oddly have a lot of nightmares lately, which is one of the reasons I oversleep occasionally. Well, the nightmares I have had are nothing like the one I had this morning – this one seemed real.
I was half asleep during this lesson and I couldn’t concentrate, so I leaned my head on the wall slightly and looked out of my window, to my left. Children were carelessly playing outside in the playground – all, except for one. He seemed to be pointing on to something, without any particular expression. No fear, no excitement, no happiness, nothing. As if he was just a body, without a soul. I turned my head back to my teacher, to make a quick eye contact, to make her believe I am listening to the words she’s saying, and then I looked back at the strange kid outside in the playground. He was still pointing his finger up, almost to our classroom window, but our eyes didn’t meet, so I was guessing it’s something behind the wall, that I can’t see. A huge spider maybe? Thousands of spiders?
I leaned forward and followed the stare of this boy.
“No, no, NO!“ I yelled, jumping, grabbing my bag, and running out of the classroom, down the hallway, and I only stopped at the front door.
I saw a body – not a human body though – a lot slimmer and awkward looking and kind of sleazy – holding to the wall with his long nails and the mucus dripping from his body. His face was gray, without a visible nose, with two small, jet black eyes, and a wide opened mouth that was filled with even more mucus or something alike.
Even though, in my dreams, I didn’t see the creature who was talking to me, I just knew that was him. He came for me, like he promised.
I saw the teacher running towards me and I didn’t know whether to hide or stay, tell the truth or just make something up? No one would believe me either way. I wanted to turn around and run home, but what if this thing was waiting for me outside of the door?
“What happened? Are you alright?“ she asked me and I burst into tears.
“I can’t really breathe,“ I told her and it wasn’t even a lie – I felt trapped and the fear was suffocating me. “I need to call my parents to come get me.“
And within half an hour they did. I didn’t tell them what happened, just that I felt really sick.
“Good to see you again,“ the voice I heard in my last dream said as soon as I fall asleep that night. I wasn’t blindfolded anymore, but my body was still resting in a chair and I was unable to move. In front of me, the face of a creature I saw in school earlier, was staring at me closely. “Now that you’ve seen me, there is no point in hiding, right?“
His voice was disturbing and static. I tasted my tears through the closed lips. I couldn’t open them, no matter how hard I tried.
“Now, I just want to know why,“ he said, with a mad smile on his face, but he wasn’t happy at all, I could tell. Not even hurting me would satisfy him enough, but to him, it was better than nothing. “No, that’s not true. I ALSO want to know why, but the ending is going to be the same either way. So, why would you do that to me and my family?“
“I don’t know what you’re talking about!“ I screamed, my voice shaking. I didn’t even realize I said it out loud, though that was what I was trying to do. I guess he was the one in charge of my body. When he decided to let me speak, I was able to do so. “I swear!“
“LIAR!“ the creature yelled at me with high pitch static voice, causing more tears flow down my face. “You remember. You said you do. You told your family about it. They sometimes talk about that time you did, even though they still don’t entirely believe you. It was hard to trace you and now that I did, I want to know how could you-“
I woke up in a cold sweat, crying out loud. I heard my phone ringing and I guess that woke me up. It was 2 AM, so I didn’t expect any callers at that time. When I picked it up, I noticed it was Lisa and as I was about to answer, my mother rushed through the door. She turned on the light and hugged me. I told her I only had a nightmare – which is true – even though I really saw the same creature yesterday, and so did the strange kid. Or maybe I thought I saw that kid, but he was just part of my imagination too.
My mother picked up something that looked like a book, that was lying on the end of my bed.
“Where did you find that?“ she asked. I didn’t know what she was talking about.
“Were you in my room again? You know, I don’t go through your things either!“ she stood up and threw the book back on the bed.
“Wait,“ I called, when she was about to leave my room. “Please stay, I’m sorry.“ I went along.
She is stubborn, but she couldn’t just leave me in fear, which she could tell I still was, since it was written all over my face. As she sat on the edge of my bed, I reached for the book and opened it.
It was my diary from when I was five years old – not well written and it was hard to read, because some of the words were misspelled, but I managed to get through a couple of sentences and put them together.
I read it out loud: “I used to be a queen, before I was me. I was evil. I killed people, because I was angry. I set people and whole families on fire if they were in my way. But I like me now. I’m good.“
I looked at my mother’s expression, that was hiding shame. She knew about that diary. That’s why it was in her room – she was hiding it from me.
I had no idea how it ended up here, on my bed, but it did.
I turned page after page and there was no more words, just bad drawings of people set on fire or being hanged. And the page, with one particular drawing, let the electricity out and shook my finger. I looked at my mum again, but it was like she didn’t see that. And maybe she really didn’t.
On the picture, there was a family of five – farmers maybe, as far as I could tell – a pregnant wife, a young boy, a little younger brother, and a tall, slim guy. Everyone, except for the man, was on fire, but he was covered in some sort of liquid and I couldn’t tell what it was, but it made me think, if this is the man I was dreaming about.
As I’ve said before, I believe in life after death, so if I really was the queen in my previous life and I did hurt and kill people, maybe it’s the guilt that’s causing the hallucinations and nightmares.
I asked my mum about the diary – or, well, some sort of a memory book – and she told me that I was convinced, at that age, that I used to be an evil queen. Apparently I explained the drawings the first time I let my mum see the book and I told her that this family had a farm, but didn’t make enough food as they should. At first I gave them some more time, but because most of the food they brought was rotten again, there wasn’t enough as the city needed, so I decided to get rid of them. I had people to do the dirty work for me, so they set their house on fire at night. The man escaped and the next day they found his wife and children outside of the house too, but dead, as if he tried to help them, but he was too late. I sent my men after him and then had a little fun with him myself – punishing him for trying to escape. First, I would starve him for a couple of days, then let my men beat him up, and ended his life, splashing him with sticky, poisonous fluid from plants.
I still didn’t tell my mother that I saw that man in my dreams and in school, since I was convinced now, that it’s just part of my imagination, because I subconsciously remembered my past life. I sighed with relief and we both went back to sleep after that discussion.
I saw him in my dreams again after that. I was terrified, but not like before, because I knew it’s just guilt haunting me as a bad dream.
“I’m sorry,“ I said to the creature, moments later.
He was slowly approaching me from the other side of the dark room. I was paralyzed as always and I started to panic a little, but it’s just a dream. A lot of people are lucid dreaming, thinking it’s real. I just have to go through that and tomorrow I’ll go to the doctor to get some pills, I told myself.
The creature touched my jaw with both hands and let out a static scream at first, then said: “Not good enough.“
He forcefully opened my mouth, wider than it is possible to, and I could feel it breaking. It was real pain. I cried and screamed. He pushed his head inside and started crawling inside me. My whole body was shaking, my eyeballs were about to pop out, and I noticed my tears are turning red. I was choking and there was no one who could save me.
As soon as he climbed inside of me, my mouth closed behind him, and I woke up.
It was morning already and I had a strange feeling that this is the end. My jaw did indeed hurt a little – maybe I actually believed that the dreams were real and slept with my mouth opened – and I was a little afraid, in a way. After all it has been a terrible dream.
I thought to myself: Him crawling inside of me was most likely just the way I deal with this guilt – I swallowed it, just like you swallow the pride, and I let it go, because there is no point in holding on. I’m sure there won’t be any more nightmares, but I’m still going to visit the doctor, to prescribe me something. Just in case.
I went downstairs, to the kitchen, and made myself cereal. I accidentally spilled milk over my pj’s.
“Oops. Good morning mum,“ is what I was trying to say, but that’s not what my voice said. Instead, it was: “Where is dad?“
Weird, I swear I wanted to say ‘Good morning’. Maybe I’m still a little sleepy, it wasn’t one of my best nights. And I really need to change, because this milk looks a little odd, plus it stinks.
“He is still in bed. Morning, sweetie,“ she said, giving me a kiss on the forehead.
I went over to the counter, to get a towel and try to get rid of the milk on my skin, but I grabbed the matches that my mother kept on the shelf together with her cigarettes. I tried to released them, but I couldn’t.
“Mum?“ I said, but nothing came out of me. “Mum! Help!“
No words spoken, I ran, still in my pj’s, to the garage and grabbed the gasoline.
“No, no, no, no!“
I poured it around my house and then proceeded to pour it out, inside of our home. My mother didn’t turn around, even though I begged her. She was in the living room, reading a newspaper. I put some more gasoline in the room, where my dad was sleeping, crying (well, in my mind at least, but I could feel my muscles hurt from smiling) and then I heard my mother yell out to me.
“Victoria? Do you smell gas?“
“No, mum!“ is what it came out of my mouth after I left the staircase. I ran outside again, struck the match and throw it into the puddle of gas, just like that.
“Enjoy the show,“ I said to myself as the flames caught the house. I heard a scream just a little after I started running to the nearest park, away from the house and the people I wanted to save, and I ended up under a bridge, on my own.
“Don’t save me,“ I wanted to say to the creature, now that he took everything in this world that I love, but I wasn’t in charge of my body anymore. I couldn’t say what I wanted and I couldn’t move where I wanted. Still, he knew.
“I won’t.“ said my actual voice. “Wasn’t that milk a little sticky?“
Credit: Loraine Carlile
Bound in night’s shackles, an ageing man yearns to be free. As he tries to cry aloud only a starved, raspy breath escapes his tired lungs. Too weak to be heard, he faces this terror alone.
Nearly suffocating under the potent anxiety carried forth by an atmosphere starved in darkness, he is desperate to feed on the security of light. Treading carefully amongst the unknown, he fumbles for a light source. He gropes aimlessly at unseen walls around him, but no light switch can be found.
In his haste he dislodges an object hanging from the wall. Suddenly, he is startled by the screeching of iron against the hard surface beneath him. Straining to bend down so that he can inspect the fallen object, he brushes his hand over its surface. Suspecting and, indeed, hoping it may be a lantern, he searches his pockets for a matchbox. Absurdly, he retrieves one. Surprised by his good fortune, he strikes a match and applies the flame to the object. To his relief the lantern casts a dim light which brings the immediate area around him into view. For a moment he is comforted by the emergence of light, but his comfort is soon disturbed. A new fear is brought to the forefront of his mind: What if this light reveals no trace of familiarity? He wonders, fearfully. What if I cannot find my way back home? With cold sweat dampening his face, his mind is ablaze with quandary, but he does not truly understand why. Not yet.
With little choice but to press on in spite of his fear, the old man proceeds to survey his immediate surroundings. By his discoveries he is dismayed. Everything about this room is uncomfortably alien. First, examining the floor beneath him, he realises this is no homely environment: the surface is reinforced concrete laid bare. There is no carpet covering to breathe life or solace. Examining the mostly featureless confines, out of the corner of his eye he notices the handrail of a flight of stairs. Turning to look upon the stairs, he considers the opportunities which might lie above. If he were strong enough to ascend the staircase, who knows what he may find? Perhaps I would be safer up there. He speculates. Perhaps there might be some means of communication; a telephone, perhaps? Perhaps … it does not matter. Whatever haven of respite lies beyond these steps is, for now and always, beyond my reach. Knowing this, he is forlorn. How cruel it is that such a false promise of hope could be offered to him like this. Returning to his search, he finds the strange emptiness of the room serves only to increase his feelings of isolation and confusion. Even the walls appear to encircle him – taunting him.
It is not long before another feature of the room seeks to entice him. A combination of curiosity and dread grows inside of him as he fixes his eyes upon this all at once inviting and foreboding detail. The object of his attention is unremarkable, yet far from unassuming. It is a windowless steel door. Terror looms closer still – but curiosity lingers – as the man becomes acutely aware of distant cries. They are hostile. Whatever foul creatures loom beyond this door, he does not wish to find out. Yet he must proceed. His journey has brought him too far to avoid it much longer. Perhaps subconsciously he knows this. Why else would he be struggling for breath? For what other reason would his heart beat at the disconcerting rate it is so doing?
Hesitating briefly, he wonders what might happen were he to refuse to open the door; to defy whatever forces would have him venture beyond it. It takes him no great effort to dispel such thoughts, however. His determination to return home is powerful enough to keep him moving forward. As he reaches the door, he presses an ear to its cold surface. Whatever lurks beyond is unmistakably agitated. He pulls himself away and, with a deep breath, braces himself as he carefully opens the door. The scene before him is unimaginable.
Where prior to opening the door the air had possessed an aura of foreboding stillness, now a vicious gale ravages the atmosphere. Its cries, once distant, now verge on deafening. In the midst of the storm archers in the sky target the building with a relentless barrage of liquid arrows. Before him – revealed only by a warning light high above his head – perturbed waves writhe and thrash as if in attempt to free themselves from the night’s dreadful curse. Vain, yet persistent. Deep into the heart of a vast ocean of unfathomable depths, the man is trapped. Alone. It matters not how he came to be here; he is too far gone for anyone to help him now.
Standing transfixed in the agape doorway, his body trembles violently under the ominous shadows of the night. In horrified bewilderment, he gazes listlessly into the void. Amidst the callous taunts of the wrathful waves he seeks desperately for a rational explanation. With tremendous concentration he tries to take his mind back to the moment of his arrival. With great frustration he finds he cannot retrace his steps to a point in time prior to finding himself in the dark.
He reassures himself that in all the confusion of this scenario, combined with his deteriorating mental faculty, he is bound to be less capable of coherent thought. Whether he remembers this or not he reasons that the only rational explanation is he must have arrived by boat. Yes, Of course! He realises, almost gleefully. What other explanation could there possibly be? Approaching the railing, he searches the perimeter of the lighthouse for any sign of a vessel. With a quivering hand he raises the lantern above him as he walks along the railing, examining the illuminated ocean waves for any sign of the boat on which he arrived. Several minutes pass, to no avail. He becomes increasingly disheartened as the cruel realisation settles inside of him: There is not a single ship in sight. The much stronger light above confirms this. With no signs of life as far as the eye can see, the man now truly begins to comprehend his worrying isolation. Understanding the full extent of the emptiness of his surroundings, a truly mystifying awareness dawns on him: This building does not belong so far out into the ocean. I should not be here!
He is pulled back from the inner turmoil of his mind by the sudden awareness of the increasing agitation of the ocean’s waves. With great urgency he staggers back inside the building – back to its cold but sheltering enclosure. Once inside, he shuts the door tightly. He is drenched in icy water, quivering in unbearable discomfort. The lantern has been extinguished by the storm; the room is now submerged in utter darkness. Using the handrail for support, he lowers himself onto the third step, resting the now lifeless lantern down beside him. He leans forward, his elbows resting on his thighs, and his head resting upon cupped palms. Considering the absurdity of this situation he feels it would be fitting to laugh, but in his devastation he can only weep. In search of consolation his mind takes him to the fondest moments of his past, as it has so often done in times of distress. It is in the imagining of his wife’s beautiful face that refuge is to be found. His memory of her is so strong it is almost palpable. Above all else he remembers how beautiful she had appeared on their wedding day – how happy she had made him feel that day. Smiling through tears, he recalls the blissful memory of reciting his vows and the gleeful celebration which reigned until dawn the following day. He had loved her dearly; his memories of her have always brought comfort when nothing else could. Since her death, he has often longed to hold her; he has yearned to hear her soft, reassuring voice – to simply tell her one last time, “I love you.”
Through a mist of cold tears, he sees before him a vibrant aura. Its mere presence eases his sorrow. Drying his eyes so that he might see for himself the entity before him, he is left incredulous by its appearance. A mere arm’s length away from him stands his wife in the flesh. She is vibrant and youthful. He is overcome with joy, for her vivacity breathes life into an otherwise decadent atmosphere. He reaches out to touch her, but she steps away, slipping from his grasp once again. Fear creeps back into his soul as she evades his touch. With graceful effervescence, she glides towards the door, glancing back every few steps, smiling playfully as she does so. She is beckoning him. Realising this, the old man struggles to his feet, heading towards the door. Stopping inside the doorway, he watches in horror as his wife stands on the outside of the railing, preparing to leap. He tries to cry out for her to stop; to plead with her to stay. She turns to face him, smiling innocently, urging him to trust her. She relinquishes her grip, allowing the waves to carry her away. For a moment the man hears nothing but the distressing laughter of the ocean. Then, out from the depths, he hears the soothing voice once more. “Don’t be afraid, my love,” she reassures him. “We can be together again, I promise you. Just let go.” He edges closer to the railing, knowing perfectly well what he must do to be reunited with his love.
The now faint light – a spectral apparition dancing on the blackened water – begins to flicker. With this, the old man’s hearing begins to fail him; the scene before him fades to a blur of uncharacteristic forms. The bitter cold is now imperceptible. His time is short. With great strain, he steps closer to railing. The restless waves now strike the derelict structure with malevolent intent. It is as though their forces have now been completely alerted to his presence. To him, however, the waves are barely audible; their soothing cadence puts him at ease. No longer trembling quite so violently he closes his eyes, trusting the ocean to deliver him from this place of suffering and solitude; to deliver him into his wife’s loving embrace.
In an instant, immense waves engulf the lighthouse entrance. At once, lucidity is lost. Unseen servants of the night descend on the old man’s feeble form with devastating precision. Without hesitation they pierce his withered heart, dragging him further into their everlasting embrace. A pitiful, gargling whimper escapes him as consciousness seeps out of his body. Submerged in dark waters, vacant eyes stare helplessly into sightless visions of eternity.
Silence accompanies the night.