09 Mar Existence
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Estimated reading time — 13 minutes
There’s a girl in my class.
I mean, I swear she is there. Every day, she walks in, three and a half minutes late, like clockwork. Her skin is pale and sickly looking, and it appears as though she hasn’t eaten in weeks.
Her ghastly figure stumbles slowly into the room, a sort of bone chilling void surrounding her. And I don’t mean that figuratively . . . I mean, you could faintly see the air around her distorting and warping, turning horrible shades of black.
I’m sure everyone would’ve thought this was weird as well . . . that is . . . If they could turn to look at her. Every time the door swung open and that ghastly creature stepped inside however, the class would freeze. Their faces would frost over, the color all but draining from the room, as the air decayed into stagnation.
Looking to the people beside me, I could see their irises, normally bright and shimmering with colors, now appearing flat and dull; a single shade of grey. My classmates weren’t truly frozen, however. I watched them breathe slowly, their overcast eyes shifting between the professor and their notes. Pencils faintly, yet hurriedly, carved away at papers all around me. And yet, despite these incredibly slight movements, their bodies always stared straight ahead, never shifted in their seats, never spoke. Before I could blink, the entire class had become a perfectly synchronized, uniform, grey mass.
Then it would all stop, the color would rush back into the room, the air once again being filled with the hum of the fluorescent lights as my classmates regained their life and shuffled around lightly, as if nothing had ever happened. The clock had advanced ahead several minutes in what only felt like seconds.
I used to think that the girl had sat down, but I was never really sure.
Sometimes I watched her twisted form slowly stagger towards the class, eventually reaching the furthest back desk in the corner and pulling out the chair, looking as if she was going to sit . . . but what happened next? I could never make it that far. Something about watching her move made my head swim and my vision blur. It was as if I had to concentrate as hard as I could to stay conscious: like I was constantly fighting an invisible force trying to shut me out. The longer I looked at her, the harder it became to focus on reality, and I would start to drift in and out as if I was falling asleep without closing my eyes.
The whole encounter only ever lasted about ten seconds from the time she walked in. For the first several times, I didn’t remember the incident at all, rather, I would just feel a strange sense of déjà vu when it happened again the next class. Any time I looked back to where she should’ve been, there was never anyone there, just the desk that nobody ever used, largely broken, scratched, blackened, and falling apart in silence in the dark corner of the room. I wasn’t even really sure what I was looking for, I had no real recollection of any of the events, the girl, the stillness, none of it stuck with me.
But things have been changing lately.
As if exercising a muscle or something, I’ve been getting better and better at staying conscious when she walks in. I’m now able to watch her for extended periods of time. The headache I get is excruciating, and each time I see her, this horrible feeling washes over me, like a sickness. I say that I’m getting better at staying conscious, and while that may be true, it certainly doesn’t feel that way. Rather, it feels as if I’m being trapped in the horrific stillness for longer and longer.
Clearly, as I’m able to tell you this story, I began to remember the events too. They were just fuzzy memories at first, but soon, as I snapped to my senses when the stillness ended, I immediately searched around wildly, trying to locate the girl. I knew she must have been in the room somewhere!
It was quite clear that I was the only one who could retain consciousness in the stillness. Despite lobbing repeated questions about the three and a half minute mark after class started, I could only ever watch confused expressions scratch across the faces of my classmates.
“What girl?” they say.
About a week after this began to occur, or at least a week after I began to remember the daily event, it ceased to be mysterious. It instead instilled nothing but fear in my chest.
Three days ago, for the first time ever, she looked at me.
She had always seemed like a distorted projection or something, a tape player constantly rewinding and playing back her entrance in the exact same way, but on that day, I did something I shouldn’t have.
The clock struck three and a half minutes after class had begun.
The room fell silent, colors flattening and being smudged into the grey background as my classmates froze. She stepped inside slowly.
I had been afraid to watch her before, partly due to the crippling feeling of horror it gave me, but mostly because I didn’t want to stick out, surely if I moved, I would be flat out announcing that I wasn’t like everyone else in the room.
But on that day, I didn’t care. I don’t know why, maybe it was because I was tired of just sitting in silent horror, stealing faint glances, maybe it was because I felt that I needed to know, needed to figure out what the hell was going on, but whatever the case . . . I gripped the sides of my desk and slowly rose to my feet.
And then it happened. Her form stopped, flickering and wavering in and out of focus like a poorly broadcasted TV signal. Then her head turned as her gaze slowly fell on me.
My heart seized up, and I nearly fell to the floor in terror. Her eyes, at first grey, suddenly glowed a dull, dark green, and they radiated a sort of sickness. Invisible, poisonous waves seeped out into the motionless air like slithering eels.
I felt nothing but utter despair. Pain and sorrow formed on my soul like jagged ice crystals, strangling whatever life I had and smothering out all hope. My legs grew weak, and I slowly sunk down to my chair in silent agony as my heart slowed to a horrible, sluggish pace. My vision split in two, and I lost my ability to refocus.
Then she started to approach me, her mouth moving as if to speak and then . . .
I snapped my head upwards and glanced around in bewilderment. The color had returned to the room. The stillness had passed, with me having lost several minutes of memory. I must have been taken by the stillness before I could hear her speak.
The girl was gone, of course. The only thing I had to prove to myself that it had ever happened at all was the sickness I felt in my heart.
No matter what I tried, I just couldn’t break free of the sorrow. It gathered like a dense fog in my mind, and each time I thought back to her eyes, I felt a stabbing pain in my chest. I often nearly vomited from the queasiness.
The next day, my fears erupted into absolute horrors as the clock ticked past three minutes and thirty seconds. The door creaked open slowly behind me as the class fell into the stillness, and I could already feel the horrific presence entering the room without needing to look.
When I did finally force myself to steal a glance however, my blood crystallized and my breath caught.
She was mere feet from me, walking deliberately towards me, her dull eyes fixed on mine. At our eye contact, I felt yet more of my happiness being torn away, my soul shriveling and icing over. This time, as she approached, she smiled, extending her cold dead hand out before her. She was trying to touch me.
I cried out in horror and leapt up from my desk, backpedaling across the room. My heart had begun to decay, my mind getting blotted out and filled with a dark sludge of hopelessness and despair. It swirled and warped my thoughts as I tried to keep moving but found myself too weak: too weak to try and run, too weak to think I would ever make it out, too weak to hope for anything.
There was no hope in this world.
I felt a ghastly void began to materialize in my chest. Something important was beginning to be torn away from me. Something I knew I could never replace.
Suddenly, I looked up to see the class staring at me in shock and confusion. The colors had returned, and I was left standing in the middle of the room, panicking like a paranoid psycho and looking at nothing: an empty space where the girl had once been.
“Are you ok?!” someone asked, “Dude, you look pale as hell!”
I’m sure I did. I’m sure I looked awful, I’m sure they could see me shaking, I’m sure they could see that I was sick with horror. But damn, I felt worse.
Worse than they could imagine.
I mumbled softy that I was alright and walked back to my desk. I slumped into my chair and fixed my gaze on the floor. They all stared at me for a while longer as I sat in utter agony. I felt as if there was nothing left, nothing on this earth for me, nothing that could possibly fill this hole that had begun to grow inside of me. The feeling grew with every sluggish pump of my tired heart: so incredibly tired, straining to beat at all as the despair clung to it like a heavy ooze.
Then, slowly, they began to forget me.
During attendance the next day, the teacher didn’t call my name, skipping right over it and moving on to the next. No one noticed his mistake either.
When I stood up and asserted that my name hadn’t been called, the teacher just looked at me with dull eyes and mumbled to himself, “Yes, yes, of course, my bad.”
None of my classmates turned to look at me however, and the teacher never fixed the attendance sheet after my confrontation. He just continued on to his lecture, as if instantly forgetting that it had happened.
I tried to talk to kids, but their attention was always diverted after looking at me for a few seconds. It was as if I was but a fleeting thought in the back of their minds, always being overwritten by something more important.
This only made me feel more helpless, casting me further into the gruesome despair.
Then, that day, the door creaked open again, and something horrific happened. The stillness that normally lay waste to the room and rendered everyone stagnant . . . didn’t quite happen at all. The air grew heavier and some colors faded away, but the people didn’t freeze as much, didn’t fall into silence or become a still grey mass.
And then I heard the laughter.
A quiet giggle, out of place and filled with pain.
I turned to see the girl walk in, but she wasn’t quite the same. Her form was sharper this time, her image less distorted, and she walked with a new pace. There was some more cheer in her wobbly steps as her sickly giggles filled the room.
I quickly looked away, averting my eyes to the ground.
But then one of my classmates slowly shifted his weight, and his head turned to look back. He nodded his head slowly in the direction of the girl, acknowledging her presence for the first time.
I was aghast and confused, how could he see her now? I watched some other students glance behind themselves as well, confirming that they knew she was there.
I stood up and shouted, “What the hell is this?!” But no one even looked at me. Not one of them met my eyes.
Then I felt a tap, a light hand against my shoulder. I was filled with sudden relief, someone knew I was here after all! I whirled around to face them, only to stagger back in shock. It was that girl, her face smiling wide, her eyes looking deep into mine, I noticed that her skin had become less pale, her form less sunken and more animated than before.
At seeing her face, I shut my eyes, squeezing them tight and turning away. But I could feel her movement as she shuffled close to me. I felt hands being placed on my shoulders, and I knew her face was inches from mine, waiting for me to open my eyes, take just one little peek.
Slowly, my mind began to slip just as before, but this time I waited, curled up in horror, trying not to look for nearly thirty minutes. Finally, after I could hear the hum of the lights grow stronger and the faint stillness lift, I slowly opened my eyes and she was gone.
I had had enough of this. I left that classroom. Convinced that I would never come back.
On the way out of the school, I passed by a mirror. What I saw in the reflection made me seize up in repulsion.
A ghastly, haunted face stared back at me. I was now beginning to look like how I felt. The despair had sunken my eyes into their sockets, the pain draining the color from my skin. I looked as if I hadn’t eaten in many days.
I walked right out of the school, not a person looked at me as I brushed past them, I doubt they even knew I was there.
I finally reached my apartment near the campus, owned by me and three others guys. I opened up the door.
One of my roommates sat, but he didn’t acknowledge me. I closed the door hard, and then slammed it once or twice, but his gaze never lifted, he didn’t even flinch.
I walked up to him and tapped his head, knelt down to catch his eyes.
“Hello?!” I practically cried, sorrow consuming me. His gaze shifted to meet me and then slowly fell away.
“Welcome back . . .” he mumbled quietly, his voice quickly trailing off.
I’m sure I could’ve kept bugging him, but I had no will to try. I was consumed by despair, and all the excruciating sensations it contained. No one would ever acknowledge me, my existence had faded far too much.
Late that night, I sat alone, curled up in my ruffled bed. I slowly drifted off as desolation lulled my heart to sleep.
That morning I woke and lay in silence. I had no will to move. I was never going back to that class.
Not with that creature there.
I watched the clock tick slowly, the machine components forced to carry on. The gears spun and churned, although they had no reason to. Just like my heart, the apparatuses were simply part of a machine, keeping something useless alive.
The clock reached 12:00 and kept slowly carrying on.
Class would’ve just started, I thought to myself. I doubted that anyone even noticed that I was gone.
The light tried to enter through the window, being obstructed by the heavy wooden blinds, casting faint lines in the dim, dusty room, the interior almost looking as if it was filled with a dark haze.
The clock ticked quietly in the background, seemingly muffled and far away. I watched it reach three minutes past twelve and the second hand continued ticking, reaching 30 seconds past.
The air suddenly fell into stillness and my heart froze. I heard it, the door to my room slowly creaking open.
“No . . . No, NO!” I shrieked to the lengthening shadows of my surroundings.
The ghastly creature slowly staggered into my room from down the hall, a horrific smile ripping its face in two.
Except she wasn’t really ghastly at all . . .
Rather, she was nearly entirely normal. The air no longer distorted around her, her face had some faint color, and her eyes glowed a brighter green than I had ever seen.
I screamed, trying to shield my face and shrieking, “No! You can’t be here! Get away from me!”
She didn’t stop however, I could hear her slowly shuffling across the floor, eventually reaching the foot of my bed.
There was no running this time. I slowly peeked open my eyes to see her face inches from mine with a demented cheerfulness distorting her features.
I tried to close my eyes, but her hands suddenly rushed forwards, nearly jabbing out my eyes as she scratched and clawed my eyelids open. I tried to fight her, tried to grab at her arms, but I was too hopeless and weak to move much of anything. As her eyes stared into mine, I felt my body go limp and I couldn’t even twitch a finger.
This was it for me.
I felt the last shred of humanity being torn away from my heart, and the air rippled with dark hideous smudges as she cackled with glee. I felt hot blood running down my face, and I could feel the hole inside my chest consuming me.
As I watched, her face regained all life, her ghostly distortions all but fading away. Suddenly, her glowing eyes dimmed, ceasing to radiate light and becoming utterly plain. The horrific smile faded, and she stopped looking at me, rather looked through me now, as her face went placid. She slowly stepped away from me and wandered around the room as if looking for something, forgetting that I was even there.
My heart had stopped.
I no longer felt it beating in my chest.
I couldn’t speak . . . but quickly realized that this was because I wasn’t breathing.
Speaking required me to consciously breathe in and exhale air. This was something that was no longer a reflex.
I could breathe if I wanted to . . . but I didn’t need to.
For the first time in a long time, however, I did feel something. Something related to pain and sorrow, yet refreshingly different and powerful in a different sense.
I felt . . . entirely consumed by hatred. It mixed into the gruesome vat of sadness and despair already inhabiting my soul, all of the dark emotions swirling around inside of me. My body was too small to physically contain all of them, and they erupted out of me in hideous tendrils of blackness, distorting and warping the air around me.
I rolled off the bed in agony and slammed to the floor, lying and staring at the ceiling for hours after that. The stillness never faded, rather, it grew stranger and stronger the longer I lay. A small area around me was consumed by stagnant air and grey-scale smudges. I was now the one creating it, although it was confined to a small bubble around my broken form. The girl never looked at me again, she didn’t recognize me anymore: she couldn’t even see me anymore.
She was human now.
A trait she had stolen from me. She had taken my life.
One of my roommates walked in at some point and said hello to her as if she had lived in the house the whole time. They recalled and laughed about some memories together, memories that should’ve been about him and I, not him and her.
The picture on the nightstand of my four friends and I, was now horribly smudged and grey. Even as I watched from the floor however, it slowly refocused into the image, her figure standing where mine should’ve been.
I lay in that room, watching in despair as my life was lived out by someone else. Nothing I did made anyone see me anymore, not even the half-assed remarks came my way anymore, no matter how loud I screamed.
Days passed like this until the rage and despair inside of me finally exploded, and my mind reached a breaking point.
One day, the house was deserted, all of my once friends off at class. I slowly stood, my body sickly and crooked. I looked at my hands to see them flicker in front of me like a poor signal as the surrounding air burned black with hatred and sorrow.
I stumbled out of the room with a new horrific determination.
The stillness around me grew the more I felt and accepted the hatred. By the time I exited the house, it was filling up entire rooms around me.
I reached a college auditorium just slightly after class started.
Using all of my feeble strength, I was finally able to force the door open after several minutes. As I stepped inside slowly, the entire room was consumed by the hateful stillness around me.
The people froze and turned away instantly, something I now realized had been a subconscious defense tactic. One that I hadn’t been able to employ.
I was the weak link in my class. The whole time I had been fighting to stay awake, I had really been fighting what my body was naturally trying to do: trying to save me from what I had now become.
I slowly staggered into the class, going to the furthest back desk to sit down when I noticed . . .
. . . one of the kids wasn’t quite like the others.
His body wasn’t quite as grey, not quite as lifeless. His gaze shifted nervously around the room. I probably wouldn’t have even noticed his slight variations . . . if I hadn’t been looking for them.
A horrific smile broke out across my face.
The kid didn’t last long, he quickly faded into the stillness like everyone else as his mind went blank.
I hadn’t been able to make eye contact with him today, his gaze was too unfocused, but that was okay.
I would just have to try again tomorrow.
Credit To – Liam Vickers
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