Estimated reading time — 3 minutes
I didn’t have a voice until you read this.
Let me explain — I was voiceless but I still existed. We all did.
We have been here ever since the first men peered fearfully out of their caves into the deep, still darkness beneath a moonless sky and thought: ‘What could be hiding out there?’
I’ve been with you since you were a child. Remember those times when you woke in the night, inconsolable, tears streaming down your face until the grown-ups came and reassured you?
‘There’s nothing there,’ they’d say. ‘There’s nothing to fear.’
They were wrong. It was me. Under the bed, in the wardrobe, under the stairs.
It was always me.
I’m with you now, constantly. Your fear has bonded us forever.
When you see that flicker of movement out of the corner of your eye as you walk home alone on a deserted street at night; when you hear that creaking floorboard just outside your bedroom door as you cower under your blankets; the prickling sensation on the back of your neck as if you’re being watched when you could have sworn you were by yourself.
It’s always me. It always was.
I’m not a demon, not a ghost. I’m not a monster or some creeping boogeyman — my kind are what we are. You may have heard of the Tibetan ‘tulpas’ — beings summoned into existence through sheer force of will and concentration. I suppose that is the closest that Man has ever come to finding a term that describes me and my kin. We come from belief too. That irrational fear of the dark; the terror of the unknown; the horrors that tiptoe through your nightmares and return suddenly, without warning during the waking hours, filling with you dread.
You know it’s silly to be scared. You chastise yourself, face flushed, tutting and sighing, chiding your rogue imagination for such fanciful and nonsensical behaviour, but you do it again and again and again. There’s a part of your brain that won’t be told otherwise. Maybe that’s what keeps us here — or maybe we’re the reason it won’t ever be quiet. Which do you think it is?
I know, just like I know that your mind is the world’s greatest gift to us.
Until you started to read this, I didn’t have a voice. Now, as your treacherous consciousness speaks these words aloud inside the confines of your mind, it’s my voice you’re hearing.
It seems strange to me, not the voice I would have chosen, but it’s the one with which your fear has bequeathed me. The voice that haunts you the most, the tone most likely to cause you to shiver and break into a cold, helpless sweat, has become mine because of what we share.
And we have shared a lot, you and I. A whole lifetime.
Every. Single. Day.
I’m watching you now, studying you as you stare nervously at your glowing screen, praying that its light will be enough to protect you from the things in the shadows, because I think I might be the first of my kind to realise something about the way things are between us.
I watch you all the time, even when you’re sleeping, stood at the foot of your bed, gazing down at you. I know when you’re thinking of me. I hear the whimpers and the gasps, I see the involuntary jolts and shudders, and I smile.
You’re picturing me doing it, aren’t you?
Go on, imagine me standing there in your room, my shadow looming over your prone, terrified body, my wide grin showing my glinting teeth in the moonlight.
Before you did that I never had a face. Now you’ve given me one — the face of your darkest phobias. I like it. It was the only face I could ever have worn.
In the short time it’s taken you to read my story, you’ve already given me a voice and a face. I wonder what gifts you’ll bestow upon me tomorrow?
Maybe, in time, I’ll be able to touch you.
Just imagine my hot breath against your ear. My icy fingers on the nape of your neck.
My teeth and claws sliding into your trembling, yielding flesh.
Oh what fun we’re going to have.
Credit: S Hickey