Estimated reading time — 6 minutes
The first thing you should know about me is that I’m very faint of heart.
There’s a pamphlet I’ve been looking for for a while now. I remember coming across it a while ago while I was a child. I was at the doctor’s office, the waiting room, getting a physical. The year was 2002. I was born in 1996.
That’s when I saw it. Strewn within the other celebrity or glamor magazines, it peeked out with one, single, grey corner.
It was almost like it was looking at me. I picked it up and read the title.
“How to Talk to Yourself.” by a man named Roger Harrison. There was no graphic, just the white background and the arial font reading the title and the author.
To this day, I’ve never been able to find out who the mysterious Roger Harrison was. I’ve spent countless hours on the internet browsing for someone, anyone who remotely matched my quarry.
Last week, I found a tattered piece of paper plastered to a sewer grate, colors running from the recent rain. I picked it up, and I read the title. It was the very same pamphlet from my childhood. The one I remember so very clearly on that one day in the waiting room.
“How to Talk to Yourself”.
I quickly stuffed it in my bag. I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, the feeling you get when you’re being watched. I was in a crowded square in the middle of a city. Surely, it was a coincidence.
I continued home, attempting to forget the pamphlet that was lying in my bag. Perhaps I’d save it as a bit of memorabilia. Perhaps I’d trash it.
I walked a little faster now. I was on a sidewalk, near the outskirts of the city. I live in a small, yellowing apartment in what you could call the fringes of the city. The building is gray and covered in ivy.
I arrived at my building. I slid my key into the lock and opened the door with a creak. I felt the sudden urge to read this pamphlet. I brushed it off.
With every step I took up the stairs, I could feel this sensation building more and more, and more until I eventually could not take it anymore and broke into a sprint to my apartment. I opened the door, took off my backpack, and grabbed the pamphlet out.
The feeling of being watched had subsided now, me being safe in my own home. My neighbors were playing loud music in the room above me. The urge to read the pamphlet remained. My curiosity must have been getting the better of me.
I slowly put the pamphlet down, almost reconsidering my decision but instead decided to leave it on my kitchen table. I went into my bedroom and slid into my covers. The time was about 10:47 as I drifted off into a deep sleep.
That night, I had a strange dream.
I was in a large field. The sky was gray and the grass was yellow and tall. I felt cold. The surroundings were desolate and foreboding. As I inspected the surroundings I realized that this dream was incredibly vivid compared to most other dreams I have. As my eyes scanned the horizon, I spotted something out the corner of my eye, almost indistinguishable, but yet, I could see every movement from afar. In the distance, I could see someone. They were entirely draped in a sickly shade of green. Whoever it may have been, they were twitching. Almost uncontrollably. I attempted to move towards them, but it felt like my feet were stuck in something. Something soft, and something warm. Gelatin? Vaseline?
I heard a rustling behind me, a twig snapping. I whipped around and the dream went to black. The rest of the night, I had no dreams, and I woke up shivering, feeling strange. I brushed it off as a side effect of the odd dream.
I dressed myself and brushed my teeth. I looked in the mirror. My skin was pale. Paler than I’ve ever seen. It looked as though all my blood had been drained from my body, leaving only the white skin.
I walked into the kitchen and I saw it. The gray paper with its running colors. Still looking at me. I was suddenly very cold. The same cold from the dream. I was intimidated. I was intimidated by a piece of paper. I don’t know why, it was just so… ominous. And strange. I had never felt this way about a piece of paper.
I decided to pick it up. I touched the pamphlet. It was ice cold. I opened it and read.
“You have a special somebody who lives in your lungs. They like you. But they are shy. They only come out when you are alone. Here is how to talk to them.
Step 1. Breathe deeply. Say hi. You are not afraid. Are you? They like you. You don’t have to be afraid. You won’t hurt, I promise.
We are smiling at you.”
I was confused. Say hi? To the person in my lungs? Why are they living in my lungs? I won’t hurt? Who is smiling at me? It was silent. Completely silent. I decided to do as the pamphlet said. I inhaled deeply and said “hi” softly. Nothing happened. I decided to put the pamphlet away and save the rest of the reading for after work.
I walked to work. My coworkers were silent, as they usually are. But instead of the typing of computers or movement of machines, there was nothing. Absolute, dead silence, the kind of silence that makes you go mad. It was… deafening. I hastily finished my work and left the building to get a cup of coffee.
I arrived home about an hour later. It was now 9:24. The pamphlet lay open on the table, tempting me to continue reading it.
I gave in to my temptations and picked it up and read.
“Step 2. Be cold. Don’t go to sleep, not yet. They want to see your eyes. Take one tablespoon of the oil. Eat it. Shut your eyes. Don’t yell. Don’t scream. DON’T”
(The rest of this section was undecipherable, the ink that it was written in was smudged.)
The second section, as expected, was equally as strange, if not stranger than the first section. Questions ran through my mind. The oil? What oil was the pamphlet talking about? This was the part that confused me the most, alongside the part that was smudged by the rain. I expected it would be some sort of brewed oil, with a recipe for it. I had no idea where to start looking for the oil. Perhaps there was explanation in the next step, I pondered.
“Step 3: HappyhappyhappyhappyhappyHAPPYHAPPPY. Be happy. Start talking. Say how you are. You want to make them happy. You are happy. We like to happy with you.”
As I thought, there wasn’t any inkling to as to what the oil could be. It seemed that the author, whoever he or she was, was almost completely losing his sanity at this point. This obsession with almost chilling happiness was starting to freak me out, and I closed the pamphlet and headed upstairs to my bedroom. I got underneath the covers and my head hit the pillow.
I had the same dream I had last night, the only difference was that the man in green was closer. He was much, much closer. I woke up promptly in a cold sweat at 3:27 AM, and couldn’t bring myself back to sleep. I had the sudden urge to go downstairs and read the pamphlet.
I saw the pamphlet on the table, but something was… off. Everything on my desk was very organized, and I saw a small envelope on my desk.
I rushed towards it and ripped it open. Inside was a napkin, with a crude smiley face scrawled hastily onto it. I remember specifically at this point the gravity of my situation. I had no recollection of making this note. There were no signs of a break-in, as far as I could tell. The beats in my heart began to move faster and faster as I approached the pamphlet. I opened it and on the first three steps, there was the same crude smiley face scribbled all over. I caught my breath and held it for a moment before breathing out with a wheeze. I was, at this point, terrified. The questions rushed through my head. Who the fuck was the man in green, and more importantly, how did all these smileys get into my apartment?
I began to read the fourth step.
“Step 4: Do you see them? LOOK.”
I was beyond scared at this point. Look at WHAT? I was confused and I was terrified of the monstrosity I had brought into my home. Hands shaking, I read the next step. There only had to be a few left, right?
“Step 5: They will say hi. You have made a friend. You are not alone. You are never alone.”
My main question at this point, was who would say hi? Nobody was inside my apartment, as far as I knew. My heart was beating at a million miles an hour. Fumbling with the pages, I turned to the next and final step, which was not really a step, but more of a statement.
“Final Step: You’re never without your happy friend in your lung. You can sleep now without waking up.”
The author’s obsession with happiness was almost cruel to the reader. It was haunting, the way whoever wrote this put it.
Somehow, my heart beat faster, and faster, and J felt woozy. I was confused, terrified and alone. The last thing I remember before blacking out was a raspy breathing behind me.
I woke up two days later in my bed. Had it been a dream? The paper was nowhere in sight. I walked down to the kitchen, and my eyes lit upon the paper. It had been real. My heart sank. The sun was setting. Rubbing my bleary eyes, I picked up the paper and turned to the back.
Scrawled on the back of the pamphlet was the following:
NEVER ALONE NEVER ALONE NEVER ALONE THEYRE HERE NEVER ALONE I DONT LIKE THIS IM NOT ALONE I LIKE YOU I LIKE YOU I CAN SEEEEEEEEE YOU YOU LITTLE FRIEND I WANT TO TOUCH YOU NOW LET ME SEE YOU I LIKE YOU IM GONNA FEEL ALL OF YOUR LITTLE INSIDES MY VERY SPECIAL FRIEND
Underneath the inscription, there was a smiley face.
And from behind me, I heard a raspy, shallow voice.