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I stand at the top of my stairs, socked toes curling into the carpet as one hand squeezes the door handle and the other hovers over the light switch, trying to decide if it’s safe to turn the lights out. It’s nearly seven at night, I have about an hour before sundown, but it’s just dim enough in the stairwell to make me doubt if that really matters. I stare down at the welcome mat, and though I see nothing, I know the thing that lives at the bottom of my stairs is watching me, too. I know it’s gauzy white eyes never blink, and that it’s teeth, thin and too long for it’s mouth, extending far past it’s leathery lips cannot smile, but I feel as if it’s grinning at me. I know it’s gaunt, lanky limbs are curled and crouched around it’s small body, waiting to lunge the second the light is out.
I know it isn’t real, if it was real I would be able to see it, but even as I remind myself of this, I leave the light on.
You see, I made him up, the creature that lives at the bottom of my stairs. I’ve always had an active imagination. Many children create monsters or imaginary friends with rules; a man who runs beside the car, but can only run in the shadow of the vehicle. A ghost who befriends you, but is invisible to anyone older than you. A monster who waits at the bottom of your stairs, but can’t move until the lights are out.
I’m not sure why I never stopped doing this. I’m approaching my mid twenties, and most children stopped around ten. Or at least they stopped talking about it. I try to keep my concerns to myself, though I have had to explain myself a time or two as to why I have to be the one who closes the door. I’m the only one who knows what he’s doing, because I created him.
The worst part is I know that he only exists because I think he does. There have been weeks or months where I can go up the stairs to my apartment and not feel his eyes on my back, his claw like fingers waiting to rip into me. All it takes is a stray thought, and he’s there again.
There have been times where I was too slow to close my door after I turned the light out. Nothing happens right away, though I know he is in my apartment with me. There is always a chill in my spine and a cold stone in my stomach when he gets past my door, but it’s not like he drags me down the stairs or anything. For some reason, though I know he is capable of killing me, he doesn’t.
Even when I succeed, sometimes there is this dull thudding noise that starts at 2am, and continues until sunrise. Like he’s slamming his dry, callus, too big hands against the door. Demanding I open it and let him in. This has been the hardest part about accepting he is not real, because I have had guests ask me about the noise. I never know what to tell them.
Though on the nights he gets in, I can feel him watching me from the doorway to my room, which unfortunately shares a wall with that stairwell. He sits in the same spot all night, breath wheezing out his squished, bat-like nose, body twitching and contorting as he runs his clawed fingers over his face in anticipation. Though I will never claimed to have actually seen him, I will say I feel as if a trick of the light or a stray shadow have sometimes looked as if they were trying to reveal him to me.
My biggest worry is I think he’s getting closer with each time I fail. He started right outside my doorway, but he was a mere three feet from me the last time. I can’t really tell, because he isn’t real and because I can’t see him, but I think he’s getting more worked up. I don’t know what he’s so excited about, but I can guess it will happen when he has made his way to sit at the foot of my bed.
I think he’s getting faster. I have been failing more often than not to keep him out. It won’t be long now before he reaches his goal, whatever that goal is. Maybe it’s to torment me, and feed off my fear of what he’ll do next. If that’s his goal, he’s succeeding.
It’s killing me. I can’t sleep knowing he’s there. I know he’s never attacked me in the past but I’m always scared that tonight will be the night he decides that enough is enough and goes for it. My lack of sleep is hurting my job. My paranoia is ruining my relationships. All I do is sit at home and hide away from the creature I don’t know how to stop.
I’m sick of it.
So tonight, I’m not going to hide. Tonight, I’m leaving the door to the stairwell open when I turn off the light. I’m turning off all the lights in my shitty apartment and I’m going to sit on my bed in the dark. Tonight when his twisted body lunges and lurches its way into my room I’m not going to pretend I don’t see him. I’m not going to pretend that just because I made him up that means he’s not real. I’m going to look him in those disgusting cloudy eyes and accept my fate. I’m tired of waiting.