23 Sep Ballerina
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"Ballerina"Written by Jimmy Prancil
Estimated reading time — 7 minutes
It is a quiet evening, the kind that fails to hide the occasional creaks and moans of aging floorboards as they shift in the indecisive Autumn temperatures.
She drifts just beyond the realm of reality. Her eyelids twitch left and right in short-lived spasms, interrupting the solitary stillness of her frigid bedroom. Her breaths quicken and her arms tighten, rustling the white satin sheets with a softness magnified by the noiseless void of night. In the strange semi-darkness of a room masked by drawn shades, a stray strand of light strangely reflects off of a broken photo frame on the floor beneath her flipped-down lightswitch. It paints part of her pale young features in a fragmented web of light and shadow, a haunting spotlight from which the dark aura of necrophobia emanates. Her imagination is relentless and it pushes her body to contort and writhe silently as she suffers in her sleep. She walks the fine line between dreaming and awakening. Only someone with a mind a wild as her own could walk this line with such astonishing ease and balance. In fact, the way she moves is less of a walk and more of a ballet; she hops forwards and backwards, swings from hip to hip, crawls quickly–and ever-so-quietly–from tiptoe to tiptoe. She has mastered the art of calling out to eyes and hearts, moving at large from beyond the edge.
Until the wind blows, ripping through the silence and upsetting her precariously delicate balance. She begins to fall when her tiptoes miss the rope. Her white skirt swirls around her flailing feet as her skin-tight sleeves pull back on her outreached arms, her hands lonely and cold in the sudden breeze. The dark valley below widens slowly and then overwhelmingly…
She is gripped by terror when the mistiness of awakening mysteriously masks her surroundings. The fear grips at her heart to the point that her vision begins to swim in a spiral. Her breath catches in her lungs, spotting her vision like an old man’s skin. Her hands are filled with sheets and her ears are drowned with the sounds of her own choked gasps.
She has not seen me yet but she is already afraid. My presence is a tumor in her panicking brain. I am a dark spot on the unseen horizon, a blemish on the face of dawn. Her vision continues to spin until she begins to wretch pitifully. She coughs until her panicking body forces air down her throat, thus forcing her mind to slow down to the point that it can process the acceptance of what she sees with certainty standing at the edge of her bed.
I am close enough to salvage a sweet wisp of her lingering perfume–although she’s not yet sure whether I am a breathing being or a shadow devoid of life. The spots in her vision finally fade, leaving her to stare at my horridly vague silhouette; she struggles to pick out the end of my neck from the crest of my head, she cannot tell if the ridge protruding from the left side of my visage is a cruelly hooked nose or a malcontent ear. My body stretches down out of her vision with a lone protrusion from my right that must be a gruesomely long arm. It is a limb that could suddenly shoot up and twist around her tender neck in a noose of fingers…
Although her mind has slowed down enough to fear me, her fear still strangles it to the point that it fails to form a coherent thought. Her overload of adrenaline only funnels into the tighter clenching of her arms to her sides and the ruthless digging of her fingers into the bedsheets–a battle between flesh and satin. Her only unfocused plea is that I go away, just for tonight, just until the morning, just long enough for her to comprehend the preemptive end of her existence–but I only grow in size, my arm lengthening to a previously unfathomable point. I am a nightmare, except she knows she is awake.
I can see it in her eyes–the question courses around her mind in wild circles. Could she reach her arm out to flip the lightswitch quicker than the speed of my merciless reach? But she would not dare to take her eyes off me for fear that the fraction of a breath it would take would be her last. No, she would never let my lusting limb leave her sight. She would trust her sense of touch to try on its own, but she’s afraid that I will pounce like a cat on a mouse at any kind of movement. Her mind swings the limbo of risk-taking–wait or reach, wait or reach, wait or…
To her horror, my arm begins to extend like a serpent, my hand revealing itself from behind the bed post’s edge. My fingers are mismatched and come different sizes; some are bent in backwards directions and some are wickedly curved like crude scythes. They seem to multiply like a moving mouthful of teeth. As they rapidly approach, she cannot lay and wait any longer!
Her arm shoots out, fingers scrambling for the lightswitch. Her hand has connected with something small and metallic that sets her nerves on fire and sends pain streaking down her arm. She is holding her breath and spots begin to take over her vision once more. She continues to scramble for that small plastic switch, but the switch seems to be an expert at evading her empty, blood-slick hand. Although her sight is failing her, she still glimpses my crooked fingers, which now appear to number beyond normalcy and stretch to such a length that enclosing her whole neck would leave extra. She turns her head to the direction of the switch, knowing that it is her last hope. She can see a fuzzy square of white somewhere in the darkness! She swats at it with vengeance and feels the bottom of her hand connect, but she has not succeeded in turning it on. She swears she feels my sharp fingernails scratching the back of her neck as they close around it. She strikes at it a second time, a third…
Soft yellow light floods her cozy bedroom apartment. It is a bit past 4:30 in the morning. By the time she regains her bearings, my arm has retracted back to the area behind her bedpost. My face has deflated inwards, becoming the casually-placed hood of her favorite overcoat. I harmlessly hang on her desk chair like an out-of-season Halloween decoration.
* * * * * *
She releases a breath which she cannot remember withholding. She sits in the silence a while before eventually unclenching the bedsheets and relaxing her wound-up body. She slowly swings her feet over the side of her bed and follows them with her legs. She is afraid to touch the bitingly frigid tiles, but a handful of ticks and tocks find her tiptoes timidly testing it. She walks as if on a tightrope over a canyon even though she is finally in full consciousness. The wilderness of her imagination no longer pervades her perception of reality. She still has not taken her gaze away from her ominous overcoat. She faces it with her heels pressed against the cold linoleum flooring, admiring how her head had transformed it into an angel of death. She reaches up to gingerly adjust the outcropping ridge on the left side of the hood. Then she pulls the right sleeve in so that it no longer meanders from the center. She finally finds the courage to let the sedentary nonentity out of her eyesight.
Her traipse back to her warm bed is cut short when she sees the blood, gruesomely smeared over her wall like the lipstick of death’s kiss. Panic returns. Her whole body tenses and shakes, her vision breaks back into fragments, her head rushes with nauseating urgency.
No, she decides. Not this time. Not again.
She takes a deep breath and seats herself on her satin sheets. She looks down at her right hand, still bleeding profusely from a jagged wound. She remembers hurting herself during her furious scramble. She stands up and pulls a nail out of the wall, setting it carefully next to the photo in a fragmented frame on the floor. She breathes out a sigh of reflection, pondering her embarrassing folly.
Blood drips down her hand, staining the white bedsheets. She stands and grabs a flashlight, planning to attend to it in the bathroom.
* * * * * *
She knows I’m back, somewhere in the shadows. I have a clear view of her from my vantage point in the corner of the shower. Her hand is still dripping with blood as she enters. As she comes to a frozen standstill just past the threshold, it begins to collect in a puddle next to her naked feet. The dark aura has returned–an intense fear of death–she knows that it will be all over as soon as she sees me. In here, the lightswitch lingers in the left side of the mirror’s alcove. To reach it, she would have to cross halfway through the room.
She stands no chance against her terror.
It is quiet enough to hear her breaths as they rapidly quicken. She interrupts them with a painfully nervous swallow and they return with a new desperation, as if she is trying to fit in as many as she can before her inevitable end.
At first, turning her flashlight on seems like a good idea. Then she starts to move it around, each twitch creating more shadows. I am everywhere and I am nowhere. There is no escape, not now that the flashlight has swung out of control.
She stands no chance.
She attempts to suppress her frantic panic and holds it as steady as she can, but she still trembles in terror, casting the room in a demonic kind of strobe light.
This is when she finally sees me. I emerge from her peripheral vision like a demon crawling out of hell. She whips her head around, but just before my rigid figure clarifies completely, her flashlight runs out of batteries. The room descends into absolute darkness.
I lunge at her with aggressive ferocity. She turns to make a mad dash back to her bedroom, but her footing is lost upon the slick puddle of her own blood. She screams in the ultimate culmination of a life’s pathetic end until her head crunches against the tiles.
* * * * * *
The assumed cause of death was blood loss. It had been in thick pools on the floor, even though the police only arrived fifteen minutes following the report of a scream. They simply suspected it to be an unfortunate accident–
Until the mortician noticed a strange handmark stretching all the way around her neck. A handmark with supernaturally long, numerous, misshapen fingers and dagger-sharp nails.
The case was never solved.
* * * * * *
Next time you wake up in the middle of the night, when it is so silent that all you can hear is the sound of your own breathing (or maybe even now, if you are up late in your mostly-dark bedroom)… DO NOT LOOK IN YOUR CLOSET.
And if you do?
You will set your eyes upon something: maybe an overcoat, maybe a shirt, maybe a random piece of junk. But it will not look like itself. It will look like me! And I will be watching you, a deadly hand slowly advancing towards your vulnerable throat.
Credit: Jimmy Prancil
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