Ordinary Nights

September 16, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Dusk will find me in fits.

A pinching feeling of dread washes over me as my eyes sweep across this room. Soft, low lights etch out details of a crew of sweet stuffed animals entrusted with the task of keeping watch over me as I sleep. The purity and nostalgia they represent are to serve as comfort so that I can drift away into slumber nary a care.

My gaze then shifts beyond my bed and toward my bedroom door that is open wide, inviting the lamplight from the living room as well. I have done all that I know how to incorporate as much soothing light to illuminate the very dark corners that could harbor secrets in this heavy, black night air. If I bring everything that could be hidden to to the light, then there will be no occasion for surprise, and I will surely be safe.

And I know, I know this to be true. I know I am safe, that nothing I fear is reality. There isn’t such hogwash as the Bogeyman, and truly young adults should no longer fear such ridiculous fables. The things that go bump in the night are nothing more than a collection of what children fear the most. I am not a child. By that logic, I am showing myself to be oh so very pathetic. I pay rent here. I own this room.

I didn’t invite anyone else to stay the night. Therefore, I know that I am alone. I am safe. I am safe, and now I choose to close my eyes and go to sleep. When I wake up, I shall roll out of bed and carry out a brand new day whilst feeling the sting of quiet humiliation as sunlight replaces the need for night lights and outshines the wimpy light that these 60 watt bulbs give off.

Just as last night, and the night before…

But all I am doing this to keep her away from me always. And I have done all I can do. So by the time I am done saying good night to each member of my plush army I will be sound asleep….

…my eyelids flutter open and my chest dips as if it had caved in. I cannot inhale as easily as I could upon achieving slumber. My mind fumbles groggily, spinning out of urgency; out of panic.

“Get up!” I try to whisper. I hope to rouse myself into action, calming myself and settling into a new position, for I am sure that I am simply recovering from a nightmare…

But my body continues to lie still, and my voice lurks trapped still within my throat.

“Get Up!” I attempt to plea. I cannot turn my head. My shoulders are pinned heavily to this mattress. I am wide awake, my heart quickens itself readying to flee in search of safety. I can see my bedroom door, still open. The door has not moved at all and nothing has been touched. I know the effort to be futile, so I attempt to shut my eyes and wait for this nightmare to pass. Because that’s what is happening. It’s just my mind playing tricks, and nothing more than that.

I shut my eyes in search of calm and rest; but alas, they cannot be found.

I cannot breathe.

My heart is rallying against its confinement in this ribcage. I am certain that my chest wall may explode from all the pressure. I can feel the weight bear down further and further still, mocking me. She rests gleefully in her folklore, but I am very familiar with her presence. The hag comes to visit at the worst of times; an unwelcome acquaintance sharing my bed and stealing precious moments where I could be sleeping if I weren’t fighting for control of my mind while silently begging for freedom to move about on my own free will.

I desperately attempt to move the right side of my hip or force my right shoulder to rise as the weight intensifies. I blink as hot tears of agony stream steadily down the corners of my eyes. Shadows dance in the corners — a taunting marionette — where the light cannot tread.

I hear steady breathing against my own shallow gasps. I become dizzy and the room begins to twirl…

…Did my sheets just hiss?

My body is frozen, stiff, and it is no longer mine.

The hag has settled in to pay me a visit again. This sickening void of terror and isolation is the gift that she comes bearing, for no one will ever be able to grasp what I am going through. Most people cannot and will not ever believe that something so strange can ever truly happen.

The back of my skull digs further into to pillow and my neck constricts to that my belabored breathing becomes even more difficult. I try desperately to let out even just one sound. A single sound can then lead the way for the smallest of movement. If one or the other can be achieved, then I can free myself from the spell and I can then return to safety.

The clock records what an onlooker would judge only to be a young woman fast asleep in her bed. The rhythm taps out the minutes that slide away from me as Nothing happens.

Nothing has eyes all on me as the hag lets her chin rest atop mine like a jilted lover who has come to visit in the shadows the night affords. We share the same breath, nose touching mine, eyes preying upon my deepest thoughts and ripping my soul to shreds. These tears are an offering unto her. Soon, if I am lucky, the salty liquid will dampen my hair and loose the bond that my head has entered pact with my bedsheets.

Upholding an agreement that the rest of me did not ever recall striking.
The hag shakily cups her hands gently behind my neck slithers upward, taking gentle hold of my head. Her hands offer no comfort that human contact would give. There is no reassurance in this all consuming grasp. These familiar eyes gazing into my own are a most hideous sight, as a child of Nothing cannot contain a soul. All warmth is gone as I peer into those blackened and vacant orbs — the birthplace of my nightmares. My body begins to fall completely numb, and a crooked, unnatural, other worldly grin spreads deliberately across the hag’s face just as all other times before.

If I only understood what she wanted…
I would give her absolutely anything if it meant she would never come and visit me again.

She curls her feet underneath her pelvis, pushing down on my stomach and causing my diaphragm to constrict. All hope fades away. Those listless, ravenous eyes recognize something in mine, something they desperately long for. Her pitted and rotting cheeks moving closer to mine, my nose fills with the stench of musty Earth and decaying flesh. Head tilting and neck cracking in twisting and jerking motions, lacking the fluidity of those of the Land of the Living, she attempts — my deepest horrors realized right then — to hold onto me in search of what she so greedily seeks.

One simple kiss, solidifying my exit from this life and sinking instead to the oddly tempting promise of Nothing…

One simple night in which Nothing can belong with Someone.

Frenetically I keep demanding — over and over — of my right shoulder to buck her off of my torso, push her away, break her captivating embrace — her hypnotizing, awful intent. Such inhuman strength — an eerily tantalizing thought of just giving up and agreeing to stay, because why keep fighting? — could suggest that I will never be free so long as this oppressive darkness ensues.

But this has happened in times passed, and I know if I just want it badly enough I can end what is sure to happen.

Suddenly space and time rip apart from each other. Flashes of light strike and fill my vision, and the powerful force behind it quakes — consuming my entire body. The shriek that had been held back for now several hours finally releases itself.

All that exists is that silent scream, now given its brief chance to speak. The only thing that can be heard is weak and shrill…but it is just enough to bring me back from the throne room to Nowhere and slam me back into my own bed.

My right shoulder moves ever so slightly from its position, and I escape from under this weight. The hag will not have me tonight.

4:37 A.M. and I am free.

I shudder as I wail. These nights occur often and without mercy. I cast a glance at my little army of teddy bears and other stuffed animals. I lean against them as my eyes continue relentlessly leaking. My body is wracked with sobs as I know there exists not a single person who can help me. There is not a person, pill, or potion in this world who can make all of the nights filled with fear of never returning from Nowhere end.

All who can know of the confusion, terror, and wonder of what happens is no one at all.

*The phenomena that causes these sensations and visualizations is called sleep paralysis, a commonly misunderstood event that mainly occurs at least once in a person’s life. However, due to my own neurological complications, I experience sleep paralysis very frequently and may go months having Ordinary Nights such as this, and often times opt to choose not to sleep at all, which has induced atypical psychosis from sleep deprivation in the past. There is no treatment for this or any form of sleep paralysis. The experience detailed uses descriptive language for interest. The account itself is 100% authentic.

Credit To – Danielle Nicole

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Taps

September 14, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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As a child, I had always thought I knew what true fear was. The fear of something hiding under your bed, or in your closet. Hell, I thought clowns were the scariest shit there was. Of course, I hadn’t known the feeling of real fear; hadn’t experienced it, until I was twelve.
They say people are most afraid of the unknown, of things they can’t quite explain, things they can’t see. Unexplainable sounds in the dark, paranoid thoughts of monsters creeping in the unoccupied spots of their bedroom. These are the things that people are most afraid of, so they say. This wasn’t exactly true for my case. Sure, sounds in the darkness were a factor, but I knew the source behind the sounds. Oh, I knew. And the knowledge of the source drove terror into me, like a mallet rhythmically driving a nail into me, over and over and over.
I don’t know how it started. It was as if a switch was flipped in her and suddenly she became an uncontrollable marionette (oh, the irony). My father tried to stop her, but she persisted and he eventually gave up trying. I suggested that he call the police, or tell the neighbours, but he dismissed twelve year-old me, and told me he didn’t trust “those corrupt government lackeys” and sure as hell didn’t want the neighbours finding out. They’d have immediately called “that wretched three number hotline”. Besides, he told me, she isn’t harming either of us. I had hoped it would stay that way. She sure didn’t seem like my mom anymore, and I told him so. He yelled at me and scolded me, calling me foolish. I wanted to shout back at him, telling him he has no idea how scared I am every night, hearing her, but I didn’t.

Mother was fine in the morning and for most of the afternoon as well. Although she was always in bed, occasionally sitting up just to stare at the blank wall a few feet past the foot of her bed, she seemed as fine as her condition would deem it. Father was at work. He usually works until two in the morning or so. When my mother first started acting weird, he was afraid to leave me alone, so he took a few days off from work. He didn’t dare hire a babysitter, he trusted those people just as much as he trusted the government. After a few days, he figured it was safe enough to leave me at home, alone with her, and resumed leaving for work every morning. Take care of your mother, he would always tell me before he left. I simply nodded, when in reality, instead of taking care of her, I hid from her. But for the most part, she was fine until evening.
It was only at night, when I’m huddled under the covers in my bedroom, that she begins acting up. That’s when the noises start. I would hear her get out of bed in my parent’s bedroom, and hear her crawl across the hall, making her way to my bedroom. After the first night, I always remembered to keep my door locked. She would crawl; I would hear her crawl, all the way to the front of my bedroom door.
And then the tapping began.
They were just light taps, like how a student would knock at the door of the principal’s office. But the taps, they went on for some time. Just a constant steady tap. I remember clamping my eyes shut, trying to ignore it and go to sleep, and after almost an hour of tapping. It stopped, and I slowly opened my eyes. That’s when I realized the door wasn’t locked, and there she was, at the foot of my bed, just standing there. Staring at me. The fear I felt was real. And it sure wasn’t caused by the unknown. My eyes were open, looking at my own mother (that was merely a label at this point) stare at me. There was something unnatural about her eyes; I think it was her pupils. They were dilated to the point of being dots. Just little black dots.
There she was, just staring at me, not doing anything else. She didn’t hurt me. She just stood there. But there was something terrifying about it. Maybe it was her eyes. Maybe it did have something to do with the unknown. Not knowing what she would do next. Not knowing if she would spring at me, and attack. But nothing had happened. My father eventually came home from work and was greeted with the sight of his wife (only a label now), and his son, covered in sweat and fear.

The days following that incident, I had always kept my door locked. I double-check the lock even to this day. Of course, that didn’t stop the tapping sounds. Sometimes I swear they weren’t even coming from outside my door. Sometimes it felt like they were coming from the window, or the closet, or even under my damn bed. Fear of the unknown, that’s always how it is, one way or another, I suppose.
That was when I had my first encounter with true fear, at the age of twelve. Every day after that, the door was always locked. Eventually my mother passed away (cardiac arrest right outside my bedroom, my father opted to bury her in the backyard, can’t go trusting those morticians now), and I moved out. I tried to convince my father to live with me, but he refuses to let go of our old house; he was always a stubborn man.

Life has gotten much better for me since. I landed a high-paying job at a law firm, and next week I have a date with this beaut of a woman I met a few days back.
But, every single night before I fall asleep, as I lay under a new set of covers I bought, I could almost swear.
I swear I could still hear the tapping noises.

Credit To – Kevin Liu

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The Name of One

September 8, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Names.

Words assigned to other human beings to identify them to their fellow human beings. We walk around every day, calling out to one another, using words of a specific language to address a chosen person. Even without knowing a person’s name, we still use them to direct our thoughts, like “the blonde woman” or “the man with a beard.” All of these words describe and name the people and world around us. These words direct us. But what if there were no names? What if we walked by someone we knew by looks, but could not call out to them to get their attention? What would life be like then? Would our thoughts hold a coherent structure? Would we even know each other?

Popular talk shows couldn’t exist in this reality, because they couldn’t name who they would talk to. Confusion would follow the presidential elections, as no one would know who they were voting for. School would be harder, since you would be meeting new people that you wouldn’t even recognize. Our brains could not survive without naming people. Our minds would fill with thoughts but no one to direct them to, no one to name. Words like “blonde” or “bearded” would carry no weight, for those are names given to those we do not know. Languages would no longer be functional. If there were no names, nothing to describe a person, would they even exist? Could they exist? Is that why names were invented, to hold the human reality in place? Is that the price to pay for being withheld to a word given to you, one you didn’t even choose? Is being trapped by a word worth your existence? People who change their names can create a whole new reality for themselves. Breaking away from a particular word can open up thousands of possibilities. Also, those people that give you names, do they own you? Are you withheld to their power, their will? We name animals, and by society’s standards, we own the animals we name. If the government named you, would that mean that they owned you? Is being safe inside the confines of reality mean you give up your freedom? That is the conclusion I came to.

Now, you may be wondering why I asked you all these difficult questions. You may have already left, the ravings of a mad woman sent to torture your subconscious is not worth the time it takes to listen. Exactly what your captors want you to think. Who do you think started the naming process? Wouldn’t be the people that owned you as well as the entire human race? Reality is what we believe our world exists in, what we don’t want to break away from, when; in fact, it is the very thing that holds you hostage, holds you back from true freedom. Now that you’ve realized this, I only have one last question for you.

What is your name?

Credit To – Weirdo Reading Manga

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Why Sarah Never Sleeps

August 19, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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There were too many doors in the upstairs hall. Sarah told her parents, but they couldn’t see it. They told her not to worry. They told her there was nothing there. But there was an extra door at the end of the upstairs hall. An extra yellow door, and it didn’t belong.

It was the color of disease, jaundiced and infected, with spidery black veins across its face. One perfect silver knob gleamed in its center above a shadowy keyhole, and it didn’t look right. The doorknob shone with a mirror’s finish, and caught the light from any angle, begging for Sarah to look its way. Sarah did her best to ignore it, but the door knew her name, and it whispered it when she drew near.

Saraaaahh . . . ” the door would rasp with a voice like dried leaves as tiny claws scraped against the other side. Tears would well in Sarah’s eyes as she’d hurry past, her arms laden with everything she’d need to get ready for the day.

Saraaaahh . . . ” it would call again before she’d shuffled out of range and closed the bathroom door, cutting off its paper-thin wails. When she’d creep from the bathroom to head downstairs, the door’s voice would follow her with a furious flurry of scraping claws and tormented howls. They lingered and gnawed in the back of her mind as she’d rush through breakfast so she could leave the house a few minutes sooner.

School became a blessing, an excuse to be someone somewhere else. At school she could forget the door. At school she could pretend her house was like everyone else’s, with the right number of doors and no eerie whispers. But at the end of the day it was still waiting for her at the end of the upstairs hall, with its mirror-ball knob and yellow face. She hated coming home and knowing it was there, but even more than that, she hated going to sleep, because in her dreams, she opened the door.

Every night, she stood before it, fighting the urge to reach out. Dread knotted her belly in anticipation of pain when her hand rose anyway to grasp the silver knob. Some nights it burned her like the driest ice. Other nights it seared like a red hot coal. Very occasionally, it did neither, instead turning and turning without ever opening the door, and she couldn’t stop turning it until she woke up.

When the door did open, it revealed a swirling vortex of shadow and sound, with a thousand voices crying in the darkness. The voices curled around her, crawling through her hair like spiders. She thrashed and swatted at their skittering whispers, but the words still tingled across her skin.

She never should have listened.

He sees . . . ” they said. “He hears . . . ” they moaned. “He hungers . . . ” they wept, and burrowed in her mind like worms. “The Hollow Man, the Hollow Man,” they echoed in her mind and screamed to her from the gaping vortex. “The Hollow Man . . . he hunts!

Sarah shot up with a scream that night, gasping and sweating, but alone in her bed. The clock’s crimson face said midnight had passed, but not by much. Darkness enveloped her room, except where a vestigial nightlight illumined the corner by her desk; it wasn’t much, but she felt better when she saw it.

She pulled the bedsheets over her head and pushed away the echoing voices. I’m fine, she swore, hugging her knees and rocking. It’s just a dream. They’re always dreams. The dreams will go away like they always do.

She started humming a song her mother used to sing when Sarah was smaller, small enough to need the nightlight, and the panic faded little by little with every note.

Just a dream. She repeated. Just a dream. Just a –

“Sarah?” Someone whispered from the hall.

Sarah froze.

“Sarah? Are you Sarah?” It was the voice of a girl not much younger than Sarah, and not at all like the voice she usually heard from the door at the end of the hall.

“Who . . . who are you?” Sarah whispered back from beneath the sheets.

“My name is Lizzie. Are you Sarah?”

Sarah didn’t move; she was terrified of leaving the safety of her cocoon. As the moments ticked past, however, an anxious curiosity emboldened her enough to peek out from the covers. What if it was another girl, she thought. She sounded just as scared as Sarah felt.

Sarah crawled from her bed clutching the sweat-damp night shirt she’d worn to sleep, and waited. When nothing happened, she stood up and tip-toed toward her bedroom door; toward the waiting yellow door, with the mirror-ball knob, on the wall at the end of the upstairs hall. When she stood before it, her stomach lurched, and for a moment she couldn’t tell if she was going to vomit, or faint.

“Please,” the door said in the young girl’s voice when Sarah got close. “Please, are you Sarah?”

Sarah opened her mouth to answer, but her voice was a tiny squeak of nothing. She pressed her palms to her cheeks and smeared away the tears before trying again.

“Yes,” she finally managed. “. . . I’m Sarah.”

“Please, let me in!” The door’s silvery knob shook violently, rattling as if locked and jostled by someone on the other side. Sarah stumbled back with a gasp, staring at the shuddering, alien knob.

“Let me in, Sarah, please! I can’t stay in here! Please help me! Let me in!”

Sarah dropped to her knees when her legs gave out, and she screamed when she looked at the door.

Level with the shadowy keyhole, below the rattling knob, she stared directly into a very human eye. Tears shimmered in the other eye, as they shimmered in Sarah’s. It darted around, wide and white with fear, as if searching through the hall. And then, without warning, the keyhole became shadow, and the silver knob stilled, and the girl on the other side of the door began to cry.

“Please, Sarah,” she pleaded. “He’s almost here.”

“The Hollow Man?” Sarah whispered as a chill slithered up her spine. Lizzie sobbed quietly. Sarah scooted closer to the door, her fear growing colder when the girl from the other side didn’t answer. “Lizzie?”

Silence fell, as if it had always been there. She couldn’t hear Lizzie crying anymore, and even the house was too quiet behind her.

Sarah put her ear near the door, and held her breath.

She waited. Minutes passed — but it couldn’t have been minutes.

Nothing moved. Nothing whispered. Nothing cried. Nothing stirred. She couldn’t hear anything but her own racing heart. Was she gone?

“Lizzie?” She tried again, afraid the Hollow Man had taken her.

He’s here . . . ” Lizzie whispered at last, almost in her ear, as though Lizzie’s lips pressed tight against the keyhole. “Please, let me in . . . .

Sarah’s head ached. The world was a little fuzzy around the edges, and it was harder to focus than before. She had to stand up. She didn’t dare touch the sickly door, but her legs felt too wobbly and weak to support her. She reached for the knob with a trembling hand.

Please, Sarah . . . .” Lizzie’s voice was getting smaller. “Please . . . .

Grasping the mirror-ball knob, she pulled herself up from the floor. It moved noiselessly beneath her hand, gliding without resistance, and opened the yellow door.

A lonely expanse of normal wall inched into view, and she felt sick. She worried at her thumb in confusion, and extended a trembling hand to touch the wall behind the door. It was solid. As solid and as normal as the wall at the end of the upstairs hall should be, but her stomach churned.

She gently closed the door, which issued a soft click as the latch sprang into place, and waited. She hardly dared to move or breathe as she listened to the night, waiting for the door to speak again.

Hours passed in oppressive silence — even though it couldn’t have been hours–, and the door had nothing to say. Sarah grew sleepy — too sleepy to keep standing. Too sleepy to remember why she was standing so still at the end of the upstairs hall. It was time to go to bed.

It’s just a dream, she remembered, turning away and rubbing at her eyes. They’re always dreams.

Shuffling to her bed was like swimming through Jell-O, and most of the way there she couldn’t keep her eyes open. Luckily, she knew the way.

The dreams will go away like they always do.

The crimson clock was broken when she rolled herself back in bed, its face declaring 12:16 AM to a room that only vaguely felt familiar, but she couldn’t bring herself to care when her eyes and body felt so heavy.

Sarah . . . , Lizzie whispered. But it couldn’t be a whisper.

Sarah, Lizzie whispered. Sarah, don’t wake up.

Sarah groaned a little.

Don’t wake up, Lizzie said, her voice echoing in Sarah’s mind.

Sarah frowned, and rolled on her back. She didn’t want to wake up. She wanted to stay asleep. Lizzie didn’t need to tell her not to wake, because not being awake was the whole point of being asleep.

For a long time, all was silence. Sarah’s mind drifted, and she felt herself grow lighter, as if getting ready to float up through the blackness that surrounded her. She could feel the cool sheets beneath her then, and for a moment she thought she heard the papery-thin rustle of leaves in her room.

He’s here . . . , Lizzie whispered at last. Please, don’t wake up . . . .

Who’s here? Sarah wondered as she steadily rose.

His hollow face, an eerie mask. With hollow voice at doors will ask. To be invited in to bask. Above his favored midnight task.

A strange tingling worked its way up Sarah’s body as Lizzie recited the haunting rhyme in a disconcerting monotone. Clarity inched its way toward her slowly, melting away the fog of sleep. Hadn’t she been dreaming? Was she still dreaming?

Something was wrong.

He’s waiting inches from your face. To be the first thing your eyes grace. But keep them shut, or else embrace. A hollow shell to take your place.

Cold dread seized Sarah’s heart with each new stanza, and she trembled with the weight of her mistake. For a moment, she swore she could feel the air stir above her, stale and strangely warm against her cheeks. Leaves rustled above her bed.

The yellow door, you always keep. He follows you to where you sleep. Into your room he then will creep. Your life and dreams for him to reap.

Lizzie’s voice became little more than a breath within Sarah’s mind, and the air cooled around her when a pressure lifted from her chest.

The leaves were in the hall.

The Hollow Man, above your bed. With hollow eyes, deep slumber fed. His hollow dreams may fill your head. But never peek, or you’ll be dead.

Everything was wrong.

Distantly, Sarah registered the sound of her parents screaming in their room, and felt tears sliding down her cheeks. No longer dream tears, she could feel the wet warmth as each one fell.

“. . . Mommy,” Sarah whispered, the sound paper-thin. “Daddy,” she rasped with a voice like dried leaves.

Lizzie? She thought, but Lizzie did not respond.

Silence fell over the house and Sarah knew nothing would ever be right again.

From the hall outside her bedroom door, Sarah heard the soft click as a latch sprang into place, and waited.

Silence filled the house again. The leaves were gone.

Sunlight peeked through the curtains, and the crimson clock said it was 7:45 AM before she felt it was safe enough to open her eyes and leave her room. The yellow door, with its mirror-ball knob, stared at her from the wall at the end of the upstairs hall, and the house was still too quiet. It was a different quiet than before, though, a different quiet than from her dream.

It was the quiet of a tomb.

Except, of course, for the occasional tapping, as if from tiny claws, from the other side of the yellow door.

Credit To – Death_by_Proxy

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Under the Ice

August 14, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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6:52 AM
Another nightmare. I wake up in a pool of my own sweat. My heart is pounding and my brain feels like its going to break through my skull. Through the window the sun has just begun to rise, banishing the demons and the darkness of night back to Hell where they belong. The light shines through the blinds and covers my room in cage-like shadows. I sit up, pick my watch up off of my nightstand, and slide it on my wrist. I pull my rifle out from under the bed, knocking over a newly emptied whisky bottle. That explains the headache. I reach for the bottle and toss it into the waste basket. Whatever I had done last night is completely forgotten now. I grab a rag and polish the barrel until I can see a blurred reflection of myself looking back at me. I count each counterclockwise rotation. Its monotonous, but it calms my nerves. It is all part of my routine.

My routine keeps me alive.
My routine keeps me sane.

I lay my gun to the side and look out the window at the sun as it crawls over the mountain peaks that line the sky like jagged teeth. It is a nice morning. Yet I wish I could fully appreciate it. I can’t seem to distract myself from my dream. People used to tell me they have a hard time remembering their dreams. But not me. My dreams stay burned into my brain like a brand. Replaying themselves whenever I have a moment of peace.
It was dark. I was hiding. From what, I don’t know. But I knew it was there. I could smell it’s foul, festering stench. I could hear its heavy, shuffled footsteps. I closed my eyes, in the vague hopes that it would somehow shelter me. I could hear the footsteps slide closer and closer until I couldn’t hear them anymore. Thinking the worst was over I opened my eyes. In front of me there was a figure, a woman. Her thin face is shrouded with long, dripping wet hair. I cannot see her eyes, but I know she can see me.

Then I woke up.

I can’t remember the last time I had a pleasant dream. Hell, I don’t think I’ve ever had a pleasant dream. As a boy I was plagued by night terrors. I’d wake up in the night screaming. My mother would come running in to calm me down. She’d hold me and tell me to focus on the sound of her voice. She told me to think happy thoughts and I’d never have one again. It never worked. Happy thoughts don’t come easy to me. So the nightmares always stayed. But whose to say that’s a bad thing? I’v never understood why people insist on having “sweet dreams.” It sets expectations too high for life. Nightmares keep you grounded. They keep things in perspective. Life can seem to be terrible but the horrors it holds for you will never quite be as bad as what your subconscious can create while you sleep.

At least that’s what I tell myself.

8:28 AM
I make myself a quick breakfast. The last of the rabbit. A measly portion like this isn’t enough to last me until tomorrow. I’ll have to catch another if I want dinner tonight. I look down at my watch again and attempt time out a schedule for the day. If I head out now I can still have time to chop wood before the sun goes down. Between keeping warm last night and making breakfast, I only left myself half a log and a few twigs for kindling. If there was anything worse than a cold night up in these mountains, it was a cold night in the dark. The mind begins to wander when left alone in the dark. It fills the blackness with anything it can muster. Often times it shows you the last thing you want to see.

I put on my coat, grab my rifle, and make my way towards the door. As it creaks open, it fills the house with the frigid winter air. The chill immediately stabs at my face. I’ll definitely have to make this hunting trip quick if I don’t want to freeze to death tonight. My old tracks create a path in the snow from my last venture into the woods. I follow them, matching my boot into each corresponding footprint. Each step crunches the snow and sends echos ringing through the silence around me.

The forest cages the small clearing that houses my cabin. The towering pines stretch for miles. Beyond them, the mountains climb high into the sky. Beyond them… I don’t know. I don’t care to know. This vast tundra of frozen ground is my home. My kingdom. My wasteland.

I keep away from the outside world and it keeps away from me. It is an unspoken bond that has served me well these past three years. I loath the world I left behind. Day in and day out, I found myself surrounded by people I could not stand to be around. It was all too much for me. I don’t remember exactly when I realized I couldn’t take it anymore. But one day I knew I had to get away while I could, while I still had an ounce of sanity left within me.

I severed almost all ties I had to that life. Anyone worth knowing was gone and I had no interest in meeting anyone new. The only contact I still have is an old friend; Harry, who’s a trucker. Once a month, his route takes him to a dirt road about five miles away from my cabin. He keeps me supplied with my bare essentials and anything I might need or want. I never ask for much. Some canned food, booze, hunting supplies, a few books, and fresh water. I haven’t actually seen him since he first brought me up here two years ago. He leaves the cargo for me, I fetch it and bring it here. Easy as that. Every now and then he’ll leave a note for me. But all they do is sit in crumpled balls under my bed. I’ve never bothered reading one.

12:31 PM
I look from my watch up at the sun shining through the tree’s canopy. I have been on this little shit’s trail for three hours. Endlessly following him through this labyrinth of trees. Any time I get a clear shot, the bastard scurries off. I followed him to the edge of a pond within the forest. I squat behind a fallen tree and rest my elbows on its cold, frozen bark waiting for him to stop moving for a second so I can get him in my sights. I’ve been here for a while now. But that’s what hunting takes. Patience. A hell of a lot of patience. But I’m used to this. When you live a life like I do, patience is a big part of your day. Maybe tomorrow I’ll take a walk down to Harry’s route and leave him a list for parts so I can build a few traps. It would make getting food a lot easier. I could use the spare time to engage myself in other ways. I never did mind hunting though, there’s a certain satisfaction in feasting on a meal you killed yourself. The thought of it makes my stomach rumble with hunger.

At last he quits moving. I align his small, furry body with the crosshairs when something in my peripheral catches my eye. Beneath the ice of the frozen pond I see a blurred, shadow slowly moving about. I’ve tried fishing in that pond enough times to know that there is nothing living in there. So what is that? It can’t be a log. It’s moving around too much. Whatever is under there has to be alive.

My eyes dart back to the crosshairs for a second. The rabbit is gone. I let myself get distracted and now it’s run off. I punch the overturned tree, splitting the skin on my knuckles a bit. No. I can’t let this work myself up too much. I have a hard time bringing myself down after I work myself up. If I let myself get angry, I’ll never be able to focus hard enough to catch this little shit. I head closer to the edge of the pond to where he was standing and look for a trace of tracks to point which direction he went. The shadow under the ice moves again.

I can see it more clearly now. It is a large silhouette eerily swaying beneath the ice. I lay down my rifle and inch closer to the bank of the pond. The shape looks almost…human. I look across the ice’s surface. There is no break or crack to be seen. Nothing could have fallen in and still be alive. I put a bit of my weight on the ice. It’s solid. It should be stable enough for me to walk on. Step by step, I carefully make my way to the shadow as it carries on its ghoulish dance. I loom over it and can see through the frosted layer between us that it is certainly human. This is impossible. How did they get down there? How are they still alive? I bend down to my knees and wipe away the layer of snow atop the ice. A hand is pressed against the other side. It is a thin, dainty hand. A woman’s. Wrapped around her pale ring finger is a gold wedding band. I press my hand against the ice to match her’s. I have to find a way to get her out. I survey the area to see if there is a nearby rock or branch I can use to break the ice. I shift my weight to stand up.

In an instant, the ice shatters beneath my feet and sends me plummeting into the sub zero temperatures below its surface. The water so cold it burns my skin with its touch. My entire body momentarily shuts down as I sink further down. As soon as my head is submerged I am suddenly jolted back into consciousness. My arms flail desperately trying to find the edge of the ice to pull myself back up. My thoughts are rapid and incomprehensible. Somehow I am able to find the edge. I grip it hard and pull my torso onto the ice’s surface. I put my weight onto my elbows and force myself completely out of the water. The frigid air feels like summer compared the the depths I just crawled from. My body lies limp, staring into the sky as I try to catch my breath. My head is still spinning as if it hasn’t caught up to my body yet and is still drowning in those freezing waters.

The woman. What happened to her in all that commotion? I turn over and look into the hole. She is gone. Great. This is exactly what I need. No food and a vanishing woman. I stand my self up and carefully shuffle myself back to land. I can immediately feel the difference of solid ground under my feet through my soaking boots. I have to get out of these clothes unless I want to get hypothermia. I almost did when I first moved up here and it is not an experience I want to live through again.

I grab my rifle and begin to follow my footprints back home. That fucking rabbit. I hate it for bringing me here. Tomorrow I’ll gut that little shit and have the most satisfying meal of my life time.

As I make my way through the trees, I can’t help but think of the woman. I tell myself that my hunger and frustration must have gotten the better of me. Made me see things that weren’t there. But something about her gave me a strange feeling of deja vu. That pale, ringed hand seemed so strange yet so familiar.

4:15 PM
Somehow I make it home. I don’t know how I did it. About half way there the cold began to set in and I contemplated stopping. I wanted to just lay down in the snow and let the cold consume me. But something about dying then and there seemed weak. Like I was giving up. I didn’t want to go out like that. For a while, death is such a foreign concept to us. It’s something we hear about, maybe imagine. But it’s all a fantasy. Something that is so far out of reach, it could never happen to you. Then suddenly it’s there. It comes in like an unwanted visitor that refuses to leave. It buries itself deep under your skin. You can’t see it but you know it’s there. For the rest of your life, however short or long that may be, it patiently waits there until it can claim you and attach itself to the next poor soul.

I slide my gun back under my bed and lay my soaked clothes next to the furnace. It’s still burning the last bit of left over wood from last night. It’s not giving off much heat anymore, but they’ll dry in time. I sit by the warm glow and try to get some color back in me. The warmth slowly begins to thaw me. At first the sharp contrast in temperature hurts my skin. But I welcome it. In the cold I had become numb to all sensation. It’s good to feel again.

Once I’m practically dry I put on a new outfit and head back outside to chop wood. I look up at the sky. I have about an hour or two before I lose the sun. I walk out the door and head to the other side of the cabin. I remove the large nylon tarp from the wood pile and pick up my axe. Although chopping wood is a chore, it’s one I sometimes enjoy. When I build up frustration after a bad day I need an outlet to get it all out. And I’ve had a hell of a day.

The wooden handle feels good in my grip. I hold on tight and bring the sharp metal blade high over my head. With everything I have I hurl it down into the log at my feet. In one clean motion, the log splits in two.

So satisfying.

6:02PM
Whisky warms my entire body in a way only alcohol can do. The sun is gone, but my house is filled with a light orange glow. Within the furnace, bright flames lick and crawl over the logs. Letting out a hiss as they take over their new victim. The flames feed, growing ever stronger as the wood grows weaker. Eventually the ambush will end all they will leave behind is a dead, black husk of what existed before. The flames will jump and dance at the defeat of their prey. But in their celebration, they will grow ignorant and forget what had given them their power. They will attempt to maintain themselves on whatever they have left over, but they were greedy and left no spare traces. Their inevitable defeat is brought upon by their own victory. But it is not all for nothing. Amongst his dying brothers, an ember will always hang on to life. He will be taken away by the wind, to a new and strange place. But in his confusion, he will find new victims to prey upon. Once again, he will grow strong.

I take back a swig of whisky and laugh at the idea of the never ending cycle. I usually try to save my alcohol for a celebration. When I can properly enjoy it with a good meal. But I’ve had a long day and no longer give a shit. I fill my mouth with the amber liquid and swallow. It burns like hell going down but settles nicely in my stomach.

It’s Late

Most of the bottle is empty. I probably should have stopped a while ago. But I didn’t care. I deserved to treat myself after what I’ve been through today. It’s safe to say that I am hammered. I remember when I used to get drunk like this in the city. After a long work week, Saturday nights were usually spent with my face down against a cold bar with an empty glass in my hand and an open tab. The bars were loud and the people were annoying, but I was always able to get drunk enough to down them out. Somehow I’d make it home and in bed, usually making a mess and trashing the house in the process.

The floor beneath my ass grows harder and more uncomfortable. I grab a table ledge and pull myself to my feet. The room moves uncontrollably as I make my way into the kitchen. I punch the wall to tell it to stop, but it doesn’t listen. I need to take it easy or I’m going to be sick. I slump over the sink and turn the water on. The cool water pours over my hands and settles me. I splash some in my face and look out the window. Why did I come out here alone? Ive only ever needed myself. But sometimes I do get a little lonely.

The clouds fully engulf the moon, making my cabin the only source of light. I focus into the darkness and am filled with a sense of dread. Something is out there. At first I think I’m seeing things. But then I see it again, slowly moving toward the cabin. I press my nose against the glass. I tell myself that it’s probably just a wolf or a deer, but the shape is human. A woman now stands just outside the cabin. Her hair is long and hangs in her face. She’s wearing a long, white night gown. She is soaking wet. She is the woman from the ice.

She does not move. She just stands there, looking down at her feet. My eyes are drawn to her left hand. I can’t get the image of it pressed against the ice out of my head. That pale, thin hand with the gold wedding band. I look back to her face. She is now looking directly at me. Her gaze pierces through her dripping hair and locks onto me. I have never felt such an uneasy feeling in my life. I am sick to my stomach now. I flail my arms, gesturing for her to look away or hopefully just leave. But she stays where she is, fixated on me.

I can’t take this anymore. I turn away from her and run from my kitchen, through my living room, and into my bed room. I just need some sleep. Tomorrow all of this will go away and I can get back into the swing of things. My head is reeling. The room continues to move around me. I look down at my bed, but I can’t bring it into focus. I lean forward and reach for it but miss and fall to the floor. I fail to brace myself and my head thumps against the floor. The pain shoots through me as I lay there. I groan and open my eyes. Under the bed lay several of the crumpled up notes from Harry. The haze of my fall begins to clear and I make out the words “police” and “suspicious” written on one. What the hell? I grab the paper and unfold it. The words spin around the page as I try to read them. I rub my eyes and try to focus.

Hope you’re doing okay. The police questioned me and were suspicious for a while. But I think we’re in the clear now. You don’t have to worry about them finding you up there. Hope these supplies last you until next month. Keep in touch.
-Harry

Police? What the hell is this all about? I open another note.

Was hoping you’d have gotten back to me. Are you doing okay? I’m getting worried about you. After what happened, I hope you’re keeping yourself together up there.
-Harry

My head is going a mile a minute. What is he talking about? After what happened? Why should he be worried? What is going on? I grab another and quickly unfold it.

Really wish you’d get back to me. I don’t know what you’re doing with yourself all alone up there. I could give you some company when I come by if you need. I just worry what you might be doing to yourself. I’m sorry to bring this up and be so blunt, but a guy doesn’t just drown his wife and walk away like nothing happened. Really, you can talk to me about it. Please let me know how you’re doing.
-Harry

What is he getting at? He has to be fucking with me. I toss the papers back under the bed. I was never married and I sure as hell have never killed anyone. I’m not hiding from anyone. I’m here because I want to be. I need the isolation. Don’t I? I’m so confused. I’ve been through too much tonight. I can’t take this right now.

I look down at my hands. My fingers are feverishly shaking. I bring myself to my knees. I couldn’t kill anyone. Could I? I look at my left hand. What is wrong with me? How did I never notice this? A faded ring of pale white skin wraps the base of my ring finger. I feel like a was beaten over the head. My thoughts scramble and slowly come together.

Samantha.

I had another day of my boss chewing me out at work. I came home agitated, on edge, and roaring drunk. I just wanted to be left alone to drink. And she knew that. But she yelled. She yelled at me for coming home drunk every other night. We fought. We screamed. We threw things at each other. Eventually she said she was done with me and went into the bathroom to start a bath to calm herself down. But I wasn’t calm. I needed to tell her exactly what I thought about her and her shit. How could she just walk away like that. Like nothing happened. Like we never loved each other. Like I wasn’t worth her time. Then she started humming. That hum that got under my skin. I just couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t take her anymore.

I burry my face in my hands. My tears run down my palms and fall to the floor. I can hear foot steps coming in through the living room. It’s her. Why can’t she just leave me alone? Why can’t she just let me be? I just want to be left alone.

The fire has begun to die down. The light doesn’t reach my room anymore. I sit in the dark on my bedroom floor. I can hear her footsteps getting closer. She begins to hum. I can’t take this. I crawl to the corner of the room next to my dresser. Just leave me alone. Please. Her footsteps grow closer and closer. My toes curl and my heart races. I shut my eyes. Just go away. Please go away. You’re not real. You’re dead. I killed you. I fucking killed you. Just go. Let me live. Let me forget.

It is quiet. Is she gone? I open my eyes. She is inches away from my face. I try to scream. But I can’t. Her long, brown hair hangs over her face. Dripping on the floor between us. Her eyes look deep within me. I begin to get light headed. My eyes grow heavy and I fall to the floor. Everything flies by me. Except her. She stays in focus. Fixated on me.

Then everything is black.

6:52 AM
Another nightmare. I wake up in a pool of my own sweat. My heart is pounding and my head feels like its going to break through my skull. Through the window the sun has just begun to rise, banishing the demons and the darkness of night back to Hell. I sit up and pull my rifle out from under the bed, knocking over a newly emptied whisky bottle. That explains the headache. I reach for the bottle and toss it in the waste basket. It clinks against the other bottles. Whatever I had done last night is completely forgotten now. I grab a rag and polish the barrel until I can see a blurred reflection of myself looking back at me. I count each counterclockwise rotation. Its monotonous, but it calms my nerves. It is all part of my routine.

My routine keeps me alive.
My routine keeps me sane.

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One Isolated Incident

August 3, 2014 at 12:00 PM
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My fingers are still trembling. I have no idea what I should do now. How long has it been, maybe an hour and a half? All I know is, I can’t set foot in that apartment again. I’m typing this from the library. I have nowhere else from which to tell this story right now.

I’ve been living in that apartment for nine years now, by myself. There is a lot of stuff in there that I would hate to leave behind, but it may not be my choice anymore. Let me back up for a second.

I suffer from chronic sleep apnea. For those who don’t know, sleep apnea is a condition in which you stop breathing periodically throughout the night. Sometimes you go without oxygen for so long that your brain has to wake you up intermittently to force you to start breathing again. It is a deadly condition, or so I’ve been told, but I’ve been reluctant to see a doctor about it. What I wouldn’t give for a doctor right about now.

Last week, my curiosity got the better of me. I was well aware that my snoring was bad, so bad in fact that my two friends with whom I had been rooming at a hotel a few months back had to wake me up because they thought that I was dying. I decided then that maybe if I set up a camera and tried recording the sound of my own snoring, the shock of hearing said sound might be enough to make me want to see a doctor. Little did I know just what a shock awaited me.

After the first night of recording, I woke up bleary-eyed as usual, stumbled over to the camera and ejected the tape. I went about my usual morning routine of spreading butter over my soon-to-be-microwaved frozen pancakes. The tape finished rewinding a bit sooner than I had expected, so over the microwave buzzing, I proceeded to press the play button.

It was going to take some time to get to the point on the tape where I actually fell asleep after consciously pressing Record on the camera the night before, so I punched the fast-forward button. There was no need to watch the TV, as there would be nothing worth seeing. It was more the sound I was concerned about than anything.

The usual bars of distorted static danced across the screen in such a way that would soon be unrecognizable to a generation growing up in an age where VCR’s were all but extinct. In between the distorted bars, though, I could still make out the black silhouette of my body lying in the bed against the dark orange backdrop of the wall, which was slightly illuminated by a street lamp outside. I went about pulling the pancakes out of the microwave and set them on the counter with one hand, with Mrs. Butterworth’s ready to fire in the other hand. That’s when it caught my eye.

On the television, my silhouette was sitting up in the bed.

Mrs. Butterworth’s crashed to the floor, dispersing her contents onto my feet before I even knew what was happening. I hurriedly rushed to clean up the mess and get to the remote as quickly as I could. I punched the Rewind button, back to about a minute before the point at which my silhouette sat up in the bed. I shuddered at the thought of what I was about to hear.

I turned the volume up on my television and listened closely, having completely forgotten about my breakfast already. There was the usual “sawing of logs”, as my mother used to call it, accompanied by a few nasal snorts and what almost sounded like belching. In actuality, the sound was my swollen uvula resisting as I gasped for air. It was definitely worse than I had realized, but I was still waiting for that moment.

I’m not sure why I flinched when it happened. I knew it was coming. Yet still, I had no memory of having done it. I told myself, you don’t always remember what you do in your sleep. You are hardly even aware of it. The snoring subsided a little bit, no doubt because I had to have been regaining some slight consciousness. But the true shock had yet to come. The silhouette spoke.

“Can you hear me?”

The voice was unrecognizable to me. It was a low, gravelly voice that told a tale of cigarettes by the thousands. I haven’t smoked for five years. I could only imagine how bad things would have gotten if I had kept on. The silhouette spoke again, with more urgency.

“Can you hear me?”

Was I dreaming? To whom was I speaking? My ability to recollect the events of dreams had fallen by the wayside in recent years. There was little reason to believe this was going to make any sense.

“I see you listening. Answer me!”

I know it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. Surely he wasn’t speaking to me, his future self. I had to have been having some kind of delusions in my sleep. That had to be it. There was no other explanation, I thought to myself.

“Oh there’s an explanation allright,” he responded. With that, the sound of the mattress shifting could be heard. He was turning to get out of the bed.

I stopped the tape.

I didn’t record anything for the next two weeks, nor did I manage to make time for the doctor. I threw myself into work. I stayed busy. I even managed to make it out to the gym a few times. I watched my eating more closely. I erased the tape. By the tenth or eleventh day, I had almost gotten to the point I was making it through an entire day without even so much as thinking about it. By the time two weeks had passed, life was pretty much right back to normal.

Unfortunately, as memories tend to pass, so do the emotions associated with them, and as my fear slowly dissipated, curiosity crept its way back in. I thought maybe the one night had just been an anomaly. Maybe I had just gotten up to go to the bathroom. That’s probably what woke me up to begin with. I had concocted all sorts of excuses and theories as to what might have really happened that night.

So for the second time, I set up the camera, pressed Record, and with surprisingly little trouble, fell into another wondrous sleep.

I arose the next morning and was quickly spurred to action, but not by invigoration. It was moreso the sight of my camera, which was lying on its side on the floor. The entire tripod was tipped over. Another overnight bathroom break perhaps? Whatever it was, I was anxious to find out.

With pancakes in tow (syrup already added) I sat down, a little apprehensive, but content that I had reasonably figured out what had happened last time. I reached the beginning of the tape, and started to fast forward through the first few minutes of me actually getting to sleep. The familiar dancing static bars, and my silhouette against the dark orange wall scrolled in vertical vertigo like stacked symbols on a slot machine. I heard a bloop on my computer nearby, and rolled over to give it a look. It was an instant message from my friend Jon about an upcoming get-together. I formulated a quick reply, and cut the first pancake with my fork. Just as I was putting that first piece into my mouth, I glanced over at the television.

My face was covering the entire screen, half obscured by the darkness. My eyes were wide open, teeth bared, a look of pure inhumane terror. My hands fidgeted at a hundred miles an hour as I struggled to press the “Play” button on the remote. The sound was almost as inhuman as the look on my face. I couldn’t tell whether I was laughing or in excruciating pain. The sound was much like that often heard by zombies in video games or on certain more popular television shows. I could hear every flap of the uvula as my other self growled at the camera. The growls slowly started to turn into words. At first it sounded like “Help me,” and then it changed to “I’m coming for you. I’m coming.” I was frozen in my seat. I couldn’t move. I was petrified. Just then, I heard a loud clunking from the bedroom behind me.

At this point, I sprung into action, but I couldn’t even tell you now that it was I who was doing what I was doing. I wasn’t acting on any logical sense of any kind, it was pure gut instinct. I opened the door to my bedroom just in time to see a completely covered lump in my mattress, about the same size as me. Suddenly, the covers flung wide open, but I could only just barely see it happen as I shut the door and ran past my still growling face on the TV screen, bare feet and all, straight out to my car.

All I know is, it’s a good thing I keep my keys in my car. Otherwise I’d be out there running somewhere with no shoes. I’m surprised they haven’t thrown me out of this library already. I only have about ten minutes left on this computer and about $45 in these pants. With any luck, I can make it out to my sister’s place in Eau Claire.

If anyone happens to see this, these are the events exactly as I recall them. I pray this is not the start of a pandemic, but merely one isolated incident.

Credit To – NintendoCapriSun

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