Estimated reading time — 7 minutes
It’s so dark I can’t breathe, it’s filling my lungs I’m going to choke on it
He’s there I can feel him watching me, I wish I could see him
but I know he’s there he’s laughing at me just waiting for me to close my eyes
Someone please turn on the light.
I set the book down, it was getting late. The only thing illuminating my room was the cracked bedside lamp that occasionally flickered, casting my room into impenetrable darkness for a split second at a time.
I laughed nervously to myself. I knew there was nothing there. Of course I did, I had grown out of the tales of ghosts and ghouls and monsters that had been my favourite as a kid. At least I thought I had, until I got the email.
It was from an address I didn’t recognise, and it came to me one night as I was staying up late to finish my homework. I probably should have questioned its source before I clicked on it (I’ve never been very good at keeping my laptop virus-free), nevertheless curiosity won me over.
It had been sent to a large number of emails, and the subject line read, rather simply:
What was here? It all became clear when I clicked – a single hyperlink directed me to an eBay page advertising an archaic-looking book. It wasn’t a title I’d ever heard of, and it didn’t even include the author’s name, but the curious design of it intrigued me. It was on sale for a single penny, someone’s obviously keen to get it sold, I thought to myself. Perhaps it was the lateness of the hour, or the way the find had rekindled the mystery-seeking child in me, but I started to giggle with excitement. Had I just found lost treasure? Grinning, I pulled open the drawer in my bedside table to reveal my dusty debit card, which had laid abandoned for weeks on account of the pitiful sum contained in my account, a little over a few pence. My fingers flew across the keyboard as I tapped in my details to purchase the book, which promised to be delivered within 3 to 4 working days. ‘Thank you for your order; we hope you enjoy your purchase.’ I felt exhilarated, but the feeling was a little odd, it was just a book after all. Yet as I sat there, the clock ticking 3am, I couldn’t help but feel sick with anticipation.
The days passed slowly after that. I found it difficult to get the book off my mind, and I couldn’t sleep at night, as if I were a small child with Christmas just around the corner. It finally came on Thursday, 5 days after I had received the email.
My mum had taken it, probably suspicious about what it was as I rarely ordered anything for myself. But I was 17, and she was being a nosy bitch. I wasted no time in snatching it from her grip, yelling something over my shoulder about how she should mind her own business. She shouted something back but I had already slammed my bedroom door, eager to finally get my hands on the book.
The package was plain, wrapped in brown paper with my address scrawled sloppily across the front. I flipped it, and scratched at the tape holding it together. Even when my fingers started to bleed after days of nervous nail biting I didn’t stop, and after what felt like hours the brown tape gave way, and the book tumbled to the floor, landing with a heavy thud. I gingerly picked it up and sat on my bed. It was bound in some sort of animal skin that looked like leather but felt softer, and smelt somewhat revolting. It wasn’t a strong smell, but it was distinctive and certainly wasn’t leather.
Opening the book after the long wait felt somehow daunting, and I was hesitant. The sound of my mum weeping softly in the kitchen snapped me out of my daze and I suddenly felt disgusted at myself for giving her a hard time. I placed the book in my drawer and looked in the mirror at my pale reflection. I ran my hand through my greasy hair and sighed, the lack of sleep showing in the dark purple circles under my sunken eyes. Exiting my room, I saw my mum sitting with her back to me, her head buried in her hands, her shoulder blades rising and falling irregularly to the tune of her cry. I slumped towards her, my movements slow and heavy as if I was physically weighed down by my guilt. Reaching her, I placed my hand on her back and muttered an apology. She continued to face the floor, seemingly ignoring my words.
It was then that I bent down and noticed the red liquid that was seeping from between her fingers and trailing down her arms. My breath caught in my throat and I grabbed her arms, pulling them away from her face.
Her eyes were missing. Blood was pouring from the black, empty sockets. They were so dark, so dark. Her mouth was a thin, straight slit yet I could still hear the sound of her sobbing. How was she doing that, how was she making that noise? Was it her or was it the sound of my own cries I was hearing, as my mouth had opened and tears were dripping from my chin onto the floor, mixing with the congealing blood. I felt my whole body spasm – whether from terror or nausea I couldn’t tell. I crumpled to the floor and my mum’s eyeless gaze followed me. From this position I could see the scalpel that was lying under the kitchen table, its handle streaked with gore and more blood, the tip poking from a lump of white flesh… Oh my God her eyeball. It was looking at me! It was looking right at me! As tears pooled in my eyes I looked back up to her, and she smiled. The corners of her mouth lifted and she tilted her head to the side in unison, transforming her face into a grotesque doll-like image. The crying turned to maniacal laughter and the light above our heads blew, scattering shards of glass around the room. I sobbed harder realising I was unable to run, my muscles paralysed with fear. But then something descended on me, like a dense fog, smothering my face until the only sound I could hear was the pounding of my racing heart in my ears. I tried to break free, my arms having found strength flailed around desperately, but it was futile…
Ah! The phone! I can hear the phone! I jolted awake and sat bolt upright. My face was drenched in sweat and my shirt clung to my back. I burst into tears. It was a nightmare, just a nightmare, but it felt so vividly real. Down the hall, I heard my mum answer the ringing phone. Relief washed over me, taking the uneasy feeling with it, but I wondered how I had managed to fall asleep. I didn’t remember going to bed. Still shaking slightly, I levered myself off the bed and into the bathroom to wash my face. I passed my mum who was chattering away to my aunt, and she smiled at me. I smiled back, a genuine grin that felt unfamiliar to my tired facial muscles. I hadn’t smiled like that in days.
The book! I had almost forgotten the book! In all that excitement, my mind had wandered off the book. Maybe now I’d finally get a chance to read it. Dashing back to my room, I called to my mum saying I wasn’t hungry and that I was doing homework so to not disturb me. With my racing thoughts, I had no idea if she heard me.
I read and read until my eyes started to go blurry with fatigue. Every page I turned I expected it to be better than the previous, but I was thoroughly disappointed. I sighed heavily. The book seemed to be nothing more than the ramblings of a madman, as if I’d just purchased some crazy guy’s diary.
That was, until I reached about half way through. I flipped the page, about to set it down and call it a night when I saw that it was the last entry. The ink was imprinted deep into the paper from the weight of the writer’s hand and it was shaky, like you might write if you had your eyes closed.
I read, and carefully put the book down.
I put it down because it was late, not because I was afraid, I told myself. Yet I couldn’t help glance nervously around my room, cast in shadow. The pathetic lamp that was supposed to be keeping it light was getting old and failing, and oh man, I hadn’t even closed the curtains.
I got up to close them when I suddenly found myself terrified. Remembering the dream I had experienced earlier, how could I be sure I was awake? Paranoia wasn’t something I usually felt, but now it swallowed me up whole. The eyes. They were so dark, so black. They were drawing me in, grabbing at me. What if I was back in that nightmare world? I shuddered at the thought, but I got up.
I wish I had never gone to the window.
Looking out, I saw the man that was standing just beyond the pool of yellow that was cast by the streetlight. His malformed outline was barely visible, but it was there. Arms that were far too long for his body hung limply by his sides, and his pale flesh reflected the moonlight ever so slightly, mottled with brown lumps that looked rotten. His continuous stare was only broken when a wailing police car sped down the road between him and me, momentarily blocking my view. When it passed, he had vanished. With a fizzle my bedside lamp died, plunging much of my room into complete darkness, save for the square of light coming from the window. I froze. I had to stay out of the dark; the book was trying to warn me. Panicking, I dashed to the door and flung it wide, desperate to bathe myself in the unnatural glow of the hallway.
The lights were off! What time is it? I had never experienced darkness so intense. It was so black it flooded my whole body and weighed me down, as if it were alive and trapping me.
It’s here, I thought, it’s here.
I turned around to find the man standing in the doorway. I went cold as I felt all the blood drain from my face. Even in the near pitch black I could see he was hideous, gangrenous flesh dripped from his frame. The stench was unbearable – I recognised the smell from the book cover. Revulsion overcame me as I realised. It was his skin. Nausea overpowered me as I bent over and deposited what was left of my lunch at his feet. I could’ve sworn I heard him laugh, the same maniacal laugh that had emitted from my mother’s mouth. Don’t close your eyes, I whispered to myself. Don’t let him inside you.
Just when it was becoming excruciating to keep my eyes open, and I was sure he was about to descend on me, the light above my head abruptly flickered to life and he vanished. I turned to see my mum looking extremely concerned. I was twitching, and my bloodshot eyes with tears splashing from them looked desperately at her, a puddle of vomit at my feet. Nightmares, I whimpered.
I turned around and shut my bedroom door gently.
I logged onto my eBay account.
I put up a photo.
And I got rid of it.
But I still get the nightmares. And I never, ever turn the light off.
Credit To – Amanda G