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A Winter Stayover

a winter stayover
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Estimated reading time โ€” 15 minutes

October 9th

I invited my old friends over for the first time in what seems like forever. We’d get together like this often throughout high school, when we comparatively didn’t have much to worry about other than the typical naiveties we all wore on our sleeves. It’s not like today. All four of us have jobs, and after said jobs we typically don’t feel like doing much. Spout some daily nonsense in the group chat, rant about our bosses, our day-to-day interactions are almost always virtualized.

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Not that I’m complaining, it seems like most friend groups slowly dissipate after the chains that bind them together (also known as school) finally release. I’m actually very thankful to have such a strong relationship with these guys, not that I could ever say that to them directly. They’d start cracking jokes without so much as a second of hesitation, I guarantee it. What a bunch of assholes. The best I can do is write it here and keep it private forever.

Anyway, they’re all gonna stay over for the weekend, or so they say. The only other time we did this, I’m pretty sure Jesse crashed on my couch for like a week. Weirdly enough, I didn’t actually mind. When you’re stuck in a house all by yourself most of the time, having company that doesn’t consist of the repetitive, synthetic noises on TV feels rather nice. Either way, I’m prepared for a long sleepover. Sleepover? That word feels strange to use in this scenario, especially considering we’re no longer a group of juveniles. I’ll just call it a stayover. I don’t know if that’s a pre-existing word or if it has another meaning, but that’s what I’m calling it. Here’s to a good stayover with my asshole friends.

October 10th

It took everyone a while to get here on account of the snow. Yeah, snow, in October. The weather has been so strange this year, typically we don’t see this hellish subservient of winter until December, mid-November at the absolute earliest. But that’s just in my area, I guess it would be different for people who live in another state. I guess in the long run it’s not that strange, just unique to us personally. The weather was one of the first topics of discussion when they all arrived in Matt’s car, paired with some playful bickering between Spencer and Jesse about some band, and which of their favorite albums was better than the other. At least I’m pretty sure they were talking about the same artist, I can’t be too sure since they never said any names I recognized.

They’re a couple of weirdos. A perfect match. Matt and I just idly sat by, talking about the latest movie releases. We tossed around the idea of watching one later in the night, which is something him and I would often do back in the days of our adolescence. We eventually settled on doing just that, but I should have known that the two of us were the only ones who’d actually pay the entertainment any mind. Matt and I are big fans of cheesy horror films, the good and the bad alike, so we had no problem giving it our attention for the next hour and a half. Jesse, on the other hand, seemingly had his entire upper body submerged into his laptop, presumably working on that damn novel he’s always talking about but never letting me read.

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You’d think he’d want some form of feedback for something he’s put so much work and time into, but no. He’s one cocky mother fucker, he always says I can “read it when it’s published.” My theory is that he’s working on something steamy and he’s too embarrassed to let me see. Spencer, on the other hand, was entirely entranced by some portable video game console he’d brought with him. It must be new, because it’s not one I recognized when I saw it. His dedication to these kinds of things is actually sort of frightening. One time, during his rabid fixation on some recently released RPG, he sent me a screenshot at the crack of dawn of some high tier weapon he’d acquired. This would have been fine on its own, the concerning part is that I saw him online before I went to bed the previous night. Not to mention he had work that morning. What a madman.

After the movie was finished, Matt and I thought it would be amusing to bombard the other two with questions about the film we just saw. He asked Jesse to give us his expert critical assessment of the feature that he’d obviously paid no mind to. To Jesse’s very little credit, he gave it an attempt, albeit halfheartedly. Spencer didn’t even try, he just brushed it off with his archetypal, “I’ll be honest, I didn’t pay any attention.” It was a fun day, something I seldom experience in my current work-driven climate. I sincerely hope we can do this more often.

October 11th

Day two of our misadventures. It was an overall enjoyable one, but it came with an odd incident. I’m questioning whether or not it’s even worth writing down, considering I have no idea what happened or if it was anything serious. It was when the three of us were downstairs in the kitchen earlier this afternoon. I’m pretty sure Matt was drawing in his sketchbook and Spencer was debating with Jesse about God knows what. I was slaving away at the stove, making something for the four of us to eat.

Admittedly, the heat felt pretty soothing, as it was unreasonably cold today. We were in the middle of a snowstorm, which struck me as odd considering I never saw anything on my phone about that. Usually we get alerts about that sort of thing before it happens, but this time it just sort of came. I didn’t mind much, as long as the power stayed on. But as I reached into the cabinet above me to pull out a plate to use, I felt everything around me suddenly shake.

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The ground beneath me seemed to erupt with movement without even a moment of warning. Everyone went silent, and the abruptness of this earthly disturbance caused me to drop my plate and nearly stumble over. Thankfully, I caught myself on the counter. The hard plastic disc bounced off the ground and eventually fell into a flat state of equilibrium. As I went to turn and face my friends, it happened again, so once more I took hold of the firm marble surface and braced myself. I’ve never experienced an earthquake before, so I reasoned to myself that what I was currently going through was just that. The tremors came and went in a seemingly rhythmic fashion, happening intermittently over the course of a few minutes. Within that time frame, they slowly weakened and eventually stopped in their entirety.

I turned my head and noticed that the weather had apparently cleared. Once it was over, I heard Jesse and Spencer continue their conversation as if nothing had just happened, as if the silence during the event never existed. I worriedly asked if everyone was okay, but they didn’t seem to know what I was talking about. Even Matt, who is always the voice of reason in our discordant posse, seemed to react incredulously to my question. I asked if anyone else had felt what I’d just felt, but they all said no. Matt said it looked to him like I’d simply lost my footing and dropped the plate I was carrying. Spencer made a facetious threat and said that I’d better not drop his plate too. Jesse simply asked if I was okay.

I really was the only one who felt that awful trembling. Even now, I’m having a bit of trouble reasoning with myself as to what that could have been. A hallucination seems unlikely, seeing as that’s something I’ve never experienced before. An earthquake also doesn’t make sense, since I’m apparently the only one who could feel it. I guess the most likely explanation is that I’d simply imagined it. I suppose I can rest assured knowing that it probably wasn’t real. I opted to let myself forget about the strange occurrence so that I could enjoy the rest of the day with my friends, but now that the other three are asleep, I can’t help but think about it again. I know I shouldn’t dwell on it, so I decided to write down my thoughts here. That way I can have some form of closure. Tomorrow’s the last day my friends are supposed to be here, and I’m determined to enjoy my time with them.

October 12th

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Well, looks like my stayover has been unforeseeably lengthened by mother nature. Matt planned on taking everyone home later in the evening, but after taking a look outside, he informed me that the roads, let alone my driveway, were too icy to even think about driving. After the revelation that they’d have to spend another night at my place, all three of them tossed around a salad of ideas related to passing the time. They all suggested something rather typical of themselves.

Spencer said we should hold a fighting game tournament, despite him being the only one who actively plays. Matt was dead set on us binge-watching some cheesy sci-fi show he was into that the rest of us had never seen. Jesse, being the “poet” among us, wanted to listen to a catalogue of rock albums he had on his phone. It seemed there was no way to please everyone. What ended up happening was a strange conglomerate of the proposed ideas. I heroically volunteered to have my ass floored by Spencer in his favorite fighter, while Jesse played some pretentious prog rock in the background of my struggles. Matt took the opportunity to talk our ears off about the show he so desperately wanted us all to watch. But, I’m gonna be honest, I wasn’t really convinced.

Sorry Matt, I’ll stick with the weird cheesy horror movies. We can at least have that in common. Perhaps one day I’ll check out the subject of your fanatical ravings, but for now, I think I need to focus on not letting Spencer wipe the floor with me next time we play that stupid game. I don’t care how many hundreds of hours you’ve put in, I’m coming for you and I’m coming for you hard.

October 13th

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It happened again.

My hallucination, daydream, whatever it was, it happened again. But it was so much worse this time. Everything was in favor of this being a normal day, just like yesterday, but I could feel that something was off. Maybe it was the intemperate chillness of the air. It felt so much colder today than the day before, but I was the only one who seemed to mind it.

Matt, Spencer and Jesse all seemed pretty anxious to get home, so maybe it didn’t even register to them. They all had jobs they needed to get back to, some sooner than others, so they were discussing braving the hostile patches of slick road in Matt’s worn out old car. Matt insisted he could get everyone home safely, and Jesse playfully retorted with the idea that none of them would survive the trip. Spencer then claimed he’d be the sole survivor of the motorized atrocity.

The living room was lively that morning, but I felt a lingering sense of minor dejection that my friends would be leaving after such an enjoyable weekend. I went over to the window so I could look at Matt’s rustic, beaten up ride. I was morbidly curious to see if Jesse’s claims of incoming mortality held any weight. But I couldn’t see much of his car, instead I was met with a harsh blizzard. My first instinct was to ask why in God’s name they’d make the drive in such nasty conditions, but then a realization hit me, and my heart sank as if it had just rolled out of bed. No one paid any notice to the snowstorm today, and thinking back on it, no one did on Saturday either, when I imagined that weird earthquake.

I felt my breathing suddenly hasten in pace as my face grew feverishly hot. Somehow, I knew it was going to happen again. The room fell into silence, and before I had the chance to brace myself, all stillness suddenly shot into that of an abrasive quake. I grabbed onto the windowsill and forced my palms down as hard as I could. My breathing became unhinged, fleeing my lungs and exiting my windpipe beyond my control. This only got worse as I looked outside the window. Outside, obscured by the thick, impairing fog, I saw a silhouette of something.

Something large. It appeared as a massive, grotesque humanoid figure. It must have been taller than the most towering building in my city. I could only see its slender, pasty legs, and its wormy, disgusting fingertips piercing their way into my visibility. I fearfully watched as it intently strode forward. Every step it took resulted in another shaky episode. It seemed to push the earth itself downward with every step.

I didn’t know what to do, I had no idea what I was seeing. All I knew is that I dared not to make a single sound as I watched this colossal creature inch further and further away from my sight. It only took a few minutes, but that few minutes could not have possibly been stretched out any further. The oppressive snow quickly subsided, which I reasoned meant it was over. The room suddenly lit up with the sounds of casual conversation, which both relieved and petrified me.

Once again, I was the only one who witnessed any of what just happened. I didn’t know how to bring any of it up to them. I didn’t want them to make light of this, there’s no way they’d take me seriously. I opted to stay silent, despite the fear and panic I felt. In the end, it only happened to me, there’s no way it could have been real. Later, around sunset, I watched as my friends drove off, back to their normal lives.

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Now I’m stuck at home with these horrible images burned into my mind. I can’t stop thinking about it. I’m having trouble getting to sleep, let alone thinking straight. Writing this down has been indescribably hard, my thoughts are far too scrambled. I need to compose myself and come back to this tomorrow.

October 14th

I had an entire night and day to think about what happened yesterday. I decided to just tell my friends what I saw. I shot a long-winded message in our group chat, responses were pretty much what I’d expected. I’d hoped in vain that they’d at least humor me on this. I can’t say I blame them. It not only sounds ludicrous, but we’re not a serious group of people by nature. I probably wouldn’t take it seriously either. But I can’t say that logical line of thought makes me feel any less isolated at the moment.

I hope I’m not losing my mind. I don’t know anything about the psychology of this sort of thing, but I know most people would label me as insane if I were to relay to them anything I’ve been through in the past few days. I’m imagining things, there’s no way around that. Is that enough for someone to be clinically insane? There’s a million anxiety-inducing thoughts swimming around in my mind, and they won’t stop. It’s like a CD on repeat, only I can’t turn it off.

How many times is this going to happen? How long am I going to be like this? Will this affect me my whole life? Will I just have to learn to ignore it and try to live as normally as I can? Am I able to afford therapy? Is there medication that can help me? Is there anyone out there who saw the same shit I did?

I haven’t been able to get stuff like this out of my head all day. I fear what’ll happen if I allow my thoughts to become incoherent. I want to avoid that at all costs. I feel perfectly sane. I have to stay that way. I feel like keeping tabs on myself is a good way to do that. I’ll just keep writing down my thoughts like I’ve done for years.

October 15

That thing came back. It fucking came back.

I saw it up close, and it was too goddamn vivid to be fake. But it has to be. I was upstairs, sitting on my bed. It was another unnaturally cold day, so I knew I was bound to see something. It’s because of that thought that I shut myself up here. I waited for hours upon hours, and nothing happened. After a while, I started to feel relieved. I thought that maybe these mountainous specters had finally left me alone, that I’d never see them again.

Christ, I wish I would have been right. I stood up from my bed, finally ready to leave my self-imposed containment, and right at that moment, I felt the entire house reverberate. I stumbled in place and grabbed onto my bed frame for stability, spinning my head in the direction of my bedroom’s only window. Of course, another whiteout.

I clenched my teeth and shut my eyes as hard as hard as the muscles in my face would allow me to. I just wanted it to be over. That’s when I noticed it felt different this time. What I perceived to be the creature’s footsteps felt as if they were coming closer. The more intense the trembles became, the more frantic my breath and heart rate got in response. It finally came down to a last, irregularly paced thud outside my house.

My breathing turned ragged and loud. I couldn’t control it at that point. I was panicking, I couldn’t make out why I would imagine this ethereal nightmare stopping outside my house. I forced myself to open my eyes and cautiously turned my head to my window once more.

It was an eye. An enormous, human-like, fixating eye. It looked directly at me, or so it seemed. Its iris was milky and gray, outlined with a putrid black coloration. Its pupil had black flares seemingly trying to escape the center. It was completely still, I couldn’t perceive any movement from it whatsoever. The creature was deathly silent, as was I, despite my panic.

It seemed the power to my house was knocked out while I was hiding behind my eyelids. I sat in almost complete darkness, staring this horrid thing down. The only light came from outside, where it was. I felt like I was dreaming, but at the same time I felt like I was going to faint.

I don’t know how long it took the damn thing to move on, but it eventually did. I waited to move again until I could no longer feel its monstrous footsteps. My power still hasn’t come back on. I must be imagining that too. It doesn’t make sense to me, how could any of this actually be happening??? I’m terrified of what could be coming next. My encounters with this thing keep getting more and more fucked up. I need to sleep, but I can’t. It’s getting harder and harder to think. Nothing makes sense.

Someone, please help me understand.

October 16th

I haven’t been able to contact any of my friends all day. Somehow my service isn’t working. I haven’t slept for three days so I’m sure this is just part of another hallucination of mine. I refuse to believe in any of it. I need to sleep. Sleep will help.

October 17th

I saw three of them today.

When I woke up and felt how cold the air was, I already knew what I was in for. I’m repulsed to admit it, but when I saw three of those things casually wander in and out of sight, it didn’t have a very strong effect on me. Maybe it’s because I’d finally collapsed from exhaustion yesterday, so emotion didn’t overwhelm me so easily.

I heard something fall over in the attic when they passed by, so after I’m finished writing this, I’m gonna go see what it was. My power still hasn’t come back on, and I still don’t seem to have any service, which leads me to believe I’ve gone completely off the deep end.

I don’t know if anything I’m seeing or doing is real anymore. I can only hope that my perceived actions are still my own. I think I’m sitting at home, writing about my descent into madness in my journal, but I could very well be in a ward right now.

I’m having more trouble remembering very simple things. I can’t remember the name of the band Jesse and Spencer were arguing about when they first came here. I can’t remember the name of the movie Matt and I watched while the other two dicked off. I can’t remember what Jesse’s book was called, or what game I played with Spencer that he kicked my ass at. Why are all of these simple, easy things so hard to recall?

I don’t get it. Is this part of the whole “losing your mind” process? I’m starting to feel hysterical. I think I should just go to the attic. I need to stop festering in these thoughts. It just makes me feel worse.

October 18th

Everything hurts right now. My heart feels like it’s going to burst, and tears haven’t stopped streaming down my face since last night.

I went up to the attic, like I said, and found something I sincerely wish I hadn’t. It’s strenuous even attempting to calm myself down after what I saw. It hurts so damn much. I’m trying to find the words to use, but I just can’t. It’s too much.

After making it up there, I saw something had fallen from its place on the shelf. I picked it up to inspect it, and it was something I didn’t recognize as mine. It was a simple cardboard box, with tape splayed in the center to deter entry.

Written across every surface, in large, bold, black lettering, read, “DO NOT OPEN”. I was confused as to what this was doing in my house. Peculiarly enough, the handwriting on it was actually mine.

I brought it downstairs shortly after recognizing that detail. I sat on the idea of opening it for a few hours. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t recall ever putting this strange box in the attic, let alone writing a warning on it. But I guess that shouldn’t have been too big of a shock, I was having trouble remembering a lot of things. Simple things that I was ashamed to have forgotten so easily. It makes sense that I’d forget doing something like this too. It could have been years old, after all. I eventually settled on just opening the thing.

I reasoned to myself that I should do so, based solely on the slim chance there would be something in there that could help me understand what was going on. I got my wish. Inside that damned thing were three items, all of which I recognized.

One was an old handheld video game console that was released when I was still in high school. I would spend my lunch periods completely immersed inside this thing, ignoring pretty much all of my classmates. Another was a sketchbook, also from high school. I don’t know why I ever stopped drawing, I had so much fun with it at the time. It’s probably one of the most enjoyable ways to express yourself, whether you’re good or bad at it. The last one was an unfinished novel that I started working on after I graduated. I submitted it for publication more times than I can remember, but nothing ever came from it. I must have rewritten and reworked this story tens of times before eventually giving up.

I opened it up again and read a portion of my last abandoned draft. I loved these old characters to death. I had a lot planned for the three of you. It’s a shame it never worked out before all of this started. That’s when the tears first came to greet my face. I haven’t been able to stop them since, even as I’m writing this. I looked back at the entries I wrote since the three of my friends came over.

No wonder I couldn’t remember any of the stuff pertaining to them. I never made names for those things to begin with. I was trying so hard to cling to the vestiges of a normal life that I deluded myself into thinking my friends were real. I somehow forgot about the things outside, along with the silence and cold they brought with them. They are a reality, and it’s been that way for a long time.

How did I forget? How COULD I forget? I really did lose my mind. I’m going to remove the last nine days of my life from this journal, along with this one. I need to. I can’t ever be reminded of this pain again.

Once this entry is over, I’m ripping these pages out and starting new entries from scratch. I’m tearing them to shreds and I’m tossing them all outside. As much as this hurts, it’s what I need to do. Goodbye, you guys.

October 9th

I invited some old friends over yesterday, it seems like forever since I last saw them. The three of us used to hang out like this all the time back in high school, when things were a lot simpler. Nowadays it’s just constant work and back pains. The world sucks, but with those three around, it sucks a lot less. They’re truly my best friends in the world, not that I can tell them that. They’d probably make fun of me. What a bunch of assholes.

Credit : Goat

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