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Estimated reading time β€” 70 minutes

I grew up in a small town in the mid-west. While there is a great variety of outdoor hobbies to immerse oneself in, little happens around here and life can quickly start to feel mundane. Lets just say that the local university is what keeps us on the map. Regardless, it is a place filled with many fond memories of my childhood, carrying throughout my adolescence and early adulthood. I liked it so much that I decided to stick around after graduating high school to further my education. While most of the friends I grew up with wanted to get as far away as possible, I held a very strong attachment to where I came from. I just felt like it would always be my home.

Growing up I had some abandonment and trust issues. My mother died in the process of giving birth to me and my father never was able to overcome the grief brought upon by the tragedy. Deep down I felt a horrible guilt that I took her away from this world and my father. I felt like my old man looked at me with feelings of resentment that constantly battled the natural love felt for his own child. All of this proved too much for him and he left when I was barely a teenager. I remember coming home after school one day to an empty house and sitting around waiting in vain- waking up the next day and not having a ride to school. I don’t know where he went or what became of him but I was lucky enough to have some caring grandparents who took me in and helped support me through all of it. They raised me up through high school and were even kind enough to pay for higher education as they were close to retirement with a lot of money saved up. Despite all of their help, my early college years were spent dealing with some serious issues pertaining to substance abuse- primarily alcohol. While a lot of kids drink in college, sometimes excessively, it was a growing problem that sat festering in the deepest part of my brain that I was too afraid to face. I hated myself for tearing apart what would have been my family. It was very difficult to get by in my day to day activities without pumping my body full of substance. At the time It was the only thing I knew was capable of easing my restless, skeptical mind. My grades would slip as I embarked on week long drinking binges, all the while neglecting to go to class. I would barely pull through by the skin of my teeth after digging myself into a hole- I don’t know how I passed any classes to be honest. Every night was spent draining bottles while I stewed in the corner of my room, convincing myself that my life was somehow worse than it really was and that I was justified in my own self-destruction. For a while the only thing that brought me joy was watching myself suffer to ensure that my masicist-driven desires were completely satisfied. Needless to say, it was a very rough and confusing part of my life.

While attending one of my classes, I met the woman who would help me stray away from my disgusting addictions. I still remember walking into the lecture hall and seeing her sitting by herself, enjoying whatever song was playing in her headphones. I chuckled to myself as she did not care who saw her dance in her silly way. After a few months into the semester, I finally worked up the courage to approach her and I’ll never forget her looking up at me saying “well look who decided to show up?” a clever smirk shining on her face. I was surprised and flattered that she had noticed me at all. I had been absent for around a week and after my teacher threatening to fail me, I was able to drag myself there. Her long, dark hair swam down her shoulders and back and her soft brown eyes flushed optimism through me. She reached out her hand, “i’m Mary” she said to me, confidence exuding from her. A hangover pounding in my head, I reached out my hand and was instantly hooked once our hands clasped. I got to talking to her and she was the sweetest, most delightful human being I had ever met. Her bright, inviting personality diffused any cynicism that I ever attempted to let out. I wont bore you with all the details of our relationship but over our last few years of college we grew very close and I was certain that she was the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. I proposed to her during our senior year, not wanting to waste any time in locking her down. Though some times were worse than others, finding Mary is what really helped me pull myself out of that darkness. While others had judged and looked down on me for my reprehensible behavior, Mary never saw them as opportunities to exude her own moral superiority on me. Rather, she just saw someone struggling to cope with their demons and provided nothing but kindness and understanding as she helped me through some of the worst times. She eventually helped me stop drinking all together which led to me having an easy ride through the rest of college. My grades improved, I had more energy, and I was so grateful to be able to find joy in life that wasn’t garnered from the handle of a bottle or the chamber of a pipe. She was the ying to my yang and effortlessly helped me see the joy in the life while kindly attempting to shift my irrational, negative views of the world. She truly helped me become a better person and I was the luckiest guy in the world to have found her when I did.


After graduation finally came and went, I was able to land a job with the local university in the marketing division. Mary graduated with me and she was adamant towards moving past this town and setting up somewhere else, but I resisted. I guess I just didn’t want to leave. I was able to convince her that we should just find a cheap rental and save up some money before we decided to move on. While this really wasn’t a bad reason for sticking around, my ulterior motive remained as staying put. Again, I just felt as though this would always be my home.

As we coasted through the beginning of our summer, life appeared to be nothing but a breeze. I had a great woman on my side, a decent paying job where I would be starting soon and I did it all in the town I grew up in. All of my friends had moved away and while some were struggling and some weren’t, I did not envy their insatiable need to travel and explore- I had everything I could ever need right here.

In early June my grandparents retired and were in the process of moving to a quiet lake house a few hours away. Due to this I had the choice between moving with them for a while or starting my own life with the woman I loved. I had made it through all of this and I had great confidence in myself that I was ready to brave the world. Mary had found an ad in the newspaper disclosing a rental home out in the country for a price that I thought seemed way too good to be true. Three bedrooms, two full baths, and a screened in back porch that overlooked a large amount of land for just $600 a month seemed ridiculous. While I was skeptical at first, I thought we should at least give it a look. An offer like this was worth at least giving a chance. After all, we were both pretty eager to move into our first home together so we promptly called the number listed to set up a meeting the following day at the house.

A few days later it was time for our meeting and I quickly realized that this place was very out of the way- about thirty minutes outside of town. “Alright” I thought, as I drove further into the boonies, the forest enveloping me as I went on. “Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad”, I thought, considering the monthly fee that Mary had previously told me, so I tried to remain optimistic. However, that optimism was all but gone when I pulled into a disheveled driveway leading to a house that could stage as your stereotypical drug den from the movies. The house stood alone, surrounded by a plethora of trees with a few houses scattered just barely in view where the neighbors must have resided. I wouldn’t have believed it was the right address had it not been for the sight of Mary’s Pontiac Sunfire in the driveway as I pulled in. I let out an apprehensive sigh as I turned off my car and made my way to the front door of the house. While I approached it, I realized it was even worse than my first impression served. Two by fours were nailed into the walls to cover holes in the houses exterior and it sat within a yard so overgrown and neglected that I wouldn’t have believed anyone had lived there for years. “Great” I thought.

Before I could enter the house I was greeted by Mary swinging open the front door to pull me inside with excitement. While the outside appeared to be in shambles, the interior wasn’t so bad in contrast. New furniture laid throughout the rooms with pristine walls and polished floors. It even had a washer, dryer and dishwasher- a few things you really miss while in college. I was a little thrown off by this, wondering if I had entered the same house I was just looking at but I figured it wasn’t worth overthinking. Plus I guess for the crazy low price I couldn’t really complain too much. If anything it would give me some outdoor projects to work on for the rest of the summer. Mary led me into the kitchen that sat just before the large screened porch that the ad disclosed. I opened the sliding door leading to it and the landlord sat there waiting. He was a middle-aged man, probably around forty-five or so with short gray hair and a weathered face. He quickly stood up and I was taken back by his imposing height, standing at least six foot eight with a lanky, wiry build. He reached out a hand and introduced himself as Derek. He had an erratic, almost paranoid aura about him as his eyes darted warily around the house while he spoke to me. He rushed us through a tour of the entire house, barely giving us any chances to see inside the rooms as he made trivial small talk with us. The tour ended as quickly as it began. I felt like I barely got a look into any of the rooms. I could barely get out a question before he would shoot across the room to the next, disregarding my inquiries.”You guys can stick around and check it out for a bit while you decide. You can give me a call once you have a decision. Also there’s a spare key underneath the doormat, just lock up once you leave”. He said to us before he seemed to rush out of the house. I thought it was pretty strange that he would be so trusting as to just leave us there alone while revealing the location of the spare key. We sat there a little perplexed by the guy’s behavior but he seemed like a nice enough guy and this place was a steal. We sat on the back porch and after some discussion we decided that having privacy like this, for such a low price, would be worth it despite the commute and the exterior being in less than stellar condition. We called Derek the next day and locked it down.

Fast forward a week and we had begun the arduous process of moving into a new house. I really didn’t have much baggage aside from my clothes, TV, x box and Wii. Mary, being the collector she was, carried the majority of our luggage as we made several trips to and from town to bring everything in. If the house hadn’t been so far away and if we had more than a relatives truck to haul everything, it would have gone a lot smoother, but in the end we got it all there no problem.


We unpacked our stuff as quickly as possible and spent the rest of the day decorating and rearranging the house. I helped out by dragging the heavier furniture across the house as Mary laid out her stuff in her preferred order. The house was really coming together and our excitement slowly grew as our new home was taking shape piece by piece. We were finally settled in and I was in such a state of content. As Mary was wrapping up her unpacking adventure, I decided to zone out in some video-games in the living room that sat on the opposite end of the house to our bedroom. Mary had to be up at the crack of dawn for her current job as a server at a local coffee shop and me being a bit of a night owl, didn’t want to disturb her rest. I sat up late in the living room playing one of my favorite games, resident evil 4 on my dusty old Wii. Hours went by and 2:00 AM came but I felt restless so I decided to switch on some Netflix and maybe fade to sleep on the couch.

I awoke with a sudden sense of urgency. Being in a new place for the first time I was a little disoriented by my surroundings but laughed it off as I came to. I checked my phone and saw that it was a little past 5:30 AM and reluctantly pulled myself off of the couch. I stretched but was startled as a large moth flew just in front of my face. I swiped my hands aggressively as I was starting to fully awaken. “What the hell is that doing in here?” I asked myself as I flipped on the lights. When I did though I saw dozens of various insects fluttering throughout the living room. “What the heck?” I muttered to myself. My senses rebooting, I heard the loud hum of frogs accompanied by the distinct chirping of crickets and birds coming from behind me. I turned towards the origin of the sounds as I made my way out of the living room to see the sliding glass door to our porch wide open. “Had I left that open by accident?” I thought if I had even went on to the porch that day as I trudged my way towards it. As I approached the doorway, I was met with the unmistakable smell of burning tobacco. I stopped for a moment just a few feet in front of the open door in confusion as Mary didn’t smoke, at least to my knowledge. I took a few steps onward before that large moth flew just past my head, its leathery wings grazing the back of my neck as it broke free into the open. I stared out into the darkness that swarmed around the porch and could see the flickering, orange glow of a cigarette cherry displaying itself with certainty in the pitch black. “Mary?” I called out. No response. “Mary!” I repeated with a bit more assertiveness. Again, silence. I was starting to feel uneasy when I wondered if I might be dreaming. I heard a light exhale as thick smoke was illuminated around the small amount of light that the burning ember provided. The smell was too real and the sounds of the outside were too detailed for this to be a dream. “Mary?” I called out once more into the darkness to only be met with silence once again. It was at this point that all of the sounds of birds, crickets and frogs ceased. A wave of fear swept over me as the silence became a presence of its own. Backing up, I quickly slid the door shut and locked it. “What are you doing?” I nearly had a heart attack as I heard Mary’s voice come from the doorway of our bedroom in a groggy tone. My eyes shot back through the glass door but the light of the cherry was no longer there. I didn’t know what to say so I just told her I was getting some fresh air. My heart jumped again as the sound of Mary’s alarm blared into the quiet morning. “Well go to sleep dummy its way too late and early for you to be up right now.” My gaze was still mostly focused outside. “I have to get ready so why don’t you just go lay down you freak.” I laughed and gave her a kiss before making my way to the bed, still a little uneasy over what just happened. I thought how sometimes people just have waking nightmares and the fact that I was barely awake, reassured me of this and I was able to force myself to sleep.

When I woke up the next day I immediately made my way towards the porch for any sign of an unwanted visitor. I slid the door open and paced my way around, searching for a cigarette butt or anything of the sort to show myself that I wasn’t crazy. I practically turned the whole area upside down but it was showing to be a fruitless effort as all I found was an empty porch. But as I stood outside, something hit me. I had just woken up on the couch again, not my bed. Dread washed over my body as I rushed to our bedroom to find a note on the bed from Mary. ” Tried to say bye to you this morning but you never came to bed! I couldn’t get you to wake up after I found you on the couch, you were really knocked out. Don’t stay up so late playing those video games okay? I’ll see you later today so have a nice morning!” I sat there in the bedroom, dumbfounded. “So was it really just a dream?” I thought to myself- I was so confused. I let the weight of my body collapse onto the bed and I fished out a book of poetry that Mary had given to me a year ago or so. i’m not a poet or anything, but some nights when I felt particularly depressed or anxious, Mary would read various poems while comforting me. I know this sounds cheesy, but having someone read me stories had a very soothing quality to it- Like a caring mother reading stories to her child before bed. I will always pull out this book when i’m feeling myself slipping as it reminds me of the love that she had provided for me as the words were permanently associated with comfort and bliss. I flipped to one of my favorites, written by Breanna Stockham- one that is my consistent go-to when I start feeling down.

“Where’d you go, self?
Where are you?
Are you hiding away,
or too afraid to shine through?
Why don’t you come
around anymore?
Did you get swept
up in the world?

My reading was halted as Mary came through the front door, her face lighting up the room as she hopped onto the bed next to me to plant a kiss in the middle of my face. I laughed as she jumped on top of me and started to tickle and pinch my sides. Even though she was up at dawn and likely had to deal with ungrateful customers at her workplace, she was still able to come through the door with no thought but making me happy. We laid on the bed and talked for a few minutes before I got up to make her some lunch. After I brought her her food and set up her favorite tv show, I decided that it was a good time to head outside to change the view of our house into something presentable.

I went out to the yard a few minutes later, quickly starting to bake in the scorching hot sun, mowing the yard and removing the comical amount of overgrowth surrounding the base of the house. After trimming some bushes down and ripping out some old dead ones, I suddenly felt the distinct feeling of being watched. I don’t know how to describe how it came about but my eyes proceeded to sweep over the surrounding area. I expected to maybe see a person nearby, watching their new neighbor and waiting for an opportunity to approach, giving me a welcome to the neighborhood. However, I was surprised when my eyes fell near the adjacent treeline to see.. a dog, standing roughly seventy yards away at the edge of the nearby forest. “Aw just a dog!” the animal lover in me thought as I realized who was looking at me from a distance. I called out and whistled for it to come over but it didn’t so much as flinch. “Oh well” I thought, not really thinking much of it and turned back to my yard work, hoping to make the most of my weekend by being as productive as possible to restore my crack-house of a home. I worked for a few more hours, trimming the remaining brush that infested the perimeter of the house until the sun made its way back down to the horizon. As I called it a day and fanned the front of my shirt to cool off, I glanced to the edge of the forest where I had originally seen my furry admirer and I was overcome with a sense of dread.. There it was. This dog hadn’t seemed to have moved a muscle since I last looked its way. It was just standing there, calm and stoic, looking right at me. An uneasy feeling gripped me but curiosity trumped my instincts and I started to make my way towards the cusp of the forest, hoping to instill some sort of reaction. As I got closer, I started to realize how intimidating this dog was. It was quite large, not massive or a circus attraction or anything but probably around one hundred pounds more or less with long sturdy legs and scruffy, jet black hair hanging off of an athletic frame. It almost looked like a wolf but just not quite enough to distinguish it as such. The best way I can describe it is if you mixed an Irish wolfhound and a full blooded wolf that came out all black. I got to within fifty feet of it when I started to feel that sense of dread intensify. I didn’t know why I felt this at the time but as the details of its appearance became more clear I saw that it was dirty- its hair appearing scraggly and unkempt. While it was already a big dog, it seemed to carry a presence that was larger than life. It sat there, not phased by my advances, sitting so still that it seemed to be made of stone. The sun was all but completely set by this point and it was almost as if some outside force stopped me dead in my tracks. I stared at it and it stared right back at me- its eyes were unlike anything I had ever seen. They glowed an electric, vibrant yellow and I could feel them cut deep – I was frozen. I continued to stare into its eyes, filling me with feelings of misery and hatred. I don’t know how else to describe it. All I could think was that there was an intelligence that it possessed that was far outside of the norm. It looked at me as if it knew who I was- like it knew all of my deepest dreams and fears and proceeded to cast a cloud of resentment over them. As it stood there, rigid and unblinking I noticed that the sun was fully set and night had arrived. Breaking the trance I was in, I began to back away. I kept my eyes locked on it as I did so in case it decided to go on the offensive, being that I may have been encroaching on its territory. Once I got some good distance on it and approached the house, I turned around and made my way to the front door. I looked back before grabbing the doorknob but at this point it was too dark to make out its figure. “Must have went back to its lair” I said to myself with a chuckle, trying to laugh off my creepy little experience.

Walking back into the house I was immediately greeted by Mary with a great deal of worry in her face and tone. “Where have you been? I was really starting to get worried.” “What do you mean?” I asked. “I was just out doing some work in the yard.” She looked at me with a puzzled look on her face. “How could you have been doing that? Please just tell me whats up.” I wasn’t sure what she was talking about. I pulled out my phone only to be dumbstruck that the time read 11:35 pm. “How is that possible?” I muttered under my breath. The sun had only just went down before I made my way back to the house. Just then the sight of that dog’s gaze flashed in my mind and I felt my body twinge with discomfort. “I don’t know what you were doing or if something is wrong, but please be honest with me if there is something on your mind,” Mary said to me while placing a soft hand on the back of my neck. “i’m okay” I told her, placing my hand on hers. “Just went on a little stroll to check out the area and clear my head.” I felt awful telling a lie right to Mary’s face like this, but I seriously didn’t know what else to tell her. I was as worried as she was but I didn’t want her to think I was crazy. We quickly moved on and proceeded to take advantage of our weekend. Not having anything to do the next day, we stayed up late watching Studio Ghibli movies and drinking wine together. Once 3:00 AM rolled around, we decided it was time to turn in, not wanting our sleep schedule to get too out of whack.

That night I recall feeling very restless; despite the generous amount of wine I had engorged myself with I tossed around in bed for what felt like forever. When I finally managed to fall asleep, I experienced a dream that was uncomfortably vivid. It started with me struggling to pick myself up off the ground to see I was on a painfully long and dark stretch of road. I know this sounds weird, but I remember feeling extremely cold- I could see my breath and feel the ends of my fingers numbing quickly. Putting my hands to my mouth to breathe in warmth, my eyes ran along the center of the road ahead of me. There weren’t any houses nearby to discern that I was in a residential area, nor any visible trees that may have indicated that I was along a back road highway. However, what I did see were two faint lights off in the distance- so far out that I almost had mistaken them as fireflies. If the road had not been so barren and the surrounding area seeming nonexistent, there is no way I would have even noticed them. I rubbed my hands together, letting the friction ease my freezing palms and I stared at the distant glow. I tried to make something out of them but it was too difficult to tell exactly how far away they were since I had nothing to scale it with. They could have been a few hundred feet away or even a few miles for all I could tell. I didn’t know what all of this meant or what was going on but I felt a deep longing to reach these lights; whether to find my way out of this dense shadow or maybe to find that it was a warm house in which I could shelter myself from the elements. I took my first step and I stopped. Once my foot planted, I felt a deep, raspy growl emanate from the darkness that laid behind me. I snapped my head back with the instinct exuded by an unlucky prey, and I felt the temperature drop even further. I focused my vision with great effort but I couldn’t seem to see anything behind me from which this growl may have come from. Nothing but shifting, oily blackness sat behind me, dancing and contorting as it mocked my efforts to discover what it held. I wanted to speak but all I could do was let my mouth fall open to let a meek whimper slide out. This was a sound I didn’t recognize at first but it was one that must have been pulled out of me by whatever presence was lingering in the dark. I stood there for what felt like hours, stuck in place while the frigid air crushed my body. The suspense was beginning to gnaw at me as I internally begged for something to happen as the cold air all but pulverized me to a speck of dust. I sat there waiting.. Suddenly, I felt an abrupt shift and heard the accelerating mass of a large animal begin crashing its way towards me. I immediately turned back towards the two lights in the distance, now offering themselves as my only sanctuary, and I ran. I ran faster and harder than I ever had, feeling my ankles and knees absorb each smack of my feet hitting the dense concrete below me. This wasn’t the stereotypical dream where no matter how fast you ran, you couldn’t move more than the speed of a slug. No, I could run well, exceptionally well actually. I felt myself flying through the air with a speed I didn’t know I possessed but those lights never seemed to get any closer. I was certain that at any moment I was going to be a meal for whatever trailed me. Every time I looked back, I saw nothing but darkness keeping its pace with me. I thought that surely I would eventually reach my safe haven that sat ahead but it felt as if I was running into oblivion. Minutes dragged on and on as I made my seemingly futile dash but I dared not stop in fear of what would present itself if I did. I had probably ran for miles but somehow I never grew tired, my pace never slowed and my pursuer never seemed to stray. I almost wanted to just stop and put an end to this horror but the lights ahead were the only thing keeping me from giving up. But as minutes seemed to turn into hours, I looked closely at these lights and noticed they seemed to be further away from where they started. I didn’t want to see it but their glow was slowly fading. Even though at this point I was certain I was dreaming, I panicked as the snapping and snarling coming from behind me was beginning to close the distance between us. I could hear the excitement in this beasts panting as it inched closer and closer and I felt the primal growls reverberate inside of my body. No matter how much I ran, those lights just would not find me. As the last flicker in view went out, I felt myself collapse mid-stride, but not hitting the ground. It felt as though I had fallen through a hole in the earth- like I had run straight off a cliff and I fell through what appeared to be the ceiling of my bedroom. I felt my feet break through the roof and I crashed onto my bed to be brought awake at last.

I sat up sharply in bed, being met with an intense chill, despite being in a house with no a/c in the middle of the summer. Laying back down I played that dream over again in my mind. I had never felt such fear in a dream. Even stranger was I don’t ever recall feeling any sort of physical sensation in any dream before, let alone having the temperature of one carry on into my conscious state. As my body woke up a little more and my mind came to, I was greeted with the smell of bacon and pancakes filling the house which calmed me down a bit at first. But as I stood up my legs buckled and I nearly fell back onto my bed. This dream had felt real but there is no way my legs could be worn out from it. “Maybe they’re just sore from working outside all day,” I reassured myself. I picked myself back up and staggered into the kitchen to find Mary happily making breakfast while playing some relaxing music. This put a smile on my face and I temporarily pushed that late night run out of my mind. After finishing up breakfast and laying around on a lazy Sunday, the dream was forcing its way back into my head. I couldn’t seem to shake it out and it was really starting to bother me so I told Mary about it. I told her about the strange nightmare I had as well as the creepy monster dog that had stared at me for hours. I asked her if she had noticed it hanging around the property or anything unusual of the sort but she hadn’t. “Don’t go crazy on me now!” Mary said, teasing me. I chuckled as she wrapped my head in her arms. “Why don’t we order some takeout and watch some movies you weirdo” she said to me as she released my head. I was more than happy to do so as I just wanted to forget about that strange dog. After ordering the food I exited the house but something immediately caught my eye. I don’t know why they stuck out so blatantly but where the grass met the sultry mud adjacent to the driveway, was a set of huge, canine tracks leading up to my bedroom window. They pressed deep into the soil as if it had crushed its feet into the earth with such malice that it gave way to it without a fight. I stared in the direction the trail of tracks originated from towards the edge of the woods- intersecting with the exact spot that I had encountered that dog the day before.

The next few weeks quickly passed by and just about every night I experienced this same dream. It was always the same for the most part: I would pick myself up on a dark road and on cue I would always start running to those lights, just trying to escape from that hunger that pined for me. Sometimes I would just run endlessly but as the nights went on it started to catch me on a semi-regular basis. I could feel every sensation as it would rip into my flesh- almost like I was being torn apart by a pack of starving wolves. The same nefarious scenario plagued my mind each night, each time being filled with more anxiety and torment than the last. I always tried reminding myself it was all a dream, but I felt the pain no less by thinking it was not real. My sleep was starting to suffer- I never felt like I slept for more than an hour and incidentally, my body ached all over. I was very unsettled by the fact that my body was constantly sore after my dreams and that I could experience such excruciating pain in them. While there were a few variations to these dreams, the outcome was always the same- I ran and ran but never reached those lights. As weeks dragged on, I started to grow paranoid- I would rush to the window with every shuffle I heard outside of the house and I started to give up on going to sleep, staying up until exhaustion got the better of me.

A few more weeks passed and I was settling in to my new job. Even though that dream was popping up in my head every night, things were about as good as they could be. I got along with everyone at work and was happy to be making a decent paycheck. Mary and I were basking in the glory of living in our first home and all of the privacy it brought with. The only thing that made sense was to write all of this off as nothing more than crazy nightmares brought upon by the stress of starting a new job and moving into a new house. However, every morning walking out to my car, I felt that same sensation of being watched and would scan the area out of routine to see if I would catch that dog nearby, glaring at me with those piercing eyes. But alas, I could never seem to catch him- even though in the back of my mind I somehow knew it was there. These weeks quickly turned into months as I constantly felt the nagging feeling of something just over my shoulder. Mary was visibly annoyed by my constant chatter of the mystical dog that I had encountered that summer night and we had even endured a few shouting matches over it, me wanting to show that I wasn’t crazy and her showing her concern wearing thin as my fruitless accusations began to pile up. The guilt of worrying Mary was weighing heavy on my shoulders. My sleep continued to suffer as I would jump with every bump in the night and rush to the window in hopes to uncover definitive proof of the source of my paranoia. But every time I would see nothing out that window but blackness. I’m ashamed to say that due to these unforeseen circumstances, I began to indulge myself in alcohol once again. It was the only thing that helped ease my mind and if I had enough, it would knock me out until the following morning.

My few remaining friends had heard of the struggles that Mary was enduring and wanted to help. My frequent patrols through the night that consisted of me staring out the window and talking to myself was keeping her awake and trying her patience. It got so bad that they felt they needed to stage an intervention, telling me to get some help and to just try and relax. That I was letting something that wasn’t real take hold of my life, causing me to miss what was going on right in front of me. I glanced at Mary, with tears swelling up in her eyes, I could see the genuine concern in her face as I began to question my own sanity. “Was all of this really just in my head?”, I thought. “Had I let this control my life so much that I had begun losing touch?” Looking at the calendar on my phone reminded me that it was well into the month of October and a tidal wave of depression swept over me. I apologized to all of my friends, not knowing what was going on; If it was really just all in my own head. It seemed easier to believe that at the time than to question it. How could I have let so much time slip by as I obsessed over something as ridiculous as this. I was consumed by it.

I felt as though I was reintegrating myself into society after my awakening from the deep delusion I had seemed to have succumbed to. I urged Mary to accompany me on a hike through a trail near our home. Readying myself for the chilly, fall weather I slid my boots on and threw on a coat while waiting for Mary to finish up her own preparations. Once we made our way out the door and down the road I felt the surging feeling of relief swim through me . I noticed every passing animal, every sound and every detail of color detailing the beautiful, decaying brush as we were carried through our trek. Making our way towards the entrance of the aforementioned trail, I turned to Mary with a smile and embraced her without words. In this moment I had truly experienced the present and all of the happiness it had to offer me. I wish I could live in these moments forever.

Making our way towards the end of the trail we came across a small pond. I had never been all the way through this trail to see what the end held but it was a very peaceful and satisfying end to a comfortably ordinary day spent. Standing at the edge of the pond, I looked down, gathering up a few stones and began skipping them across the still water. Mary, being her usual self, was capturing the scenery on her phone to assure we could later revisit it in all of its glory. “You’re going to miss your real life stuck in that phone babe!” I yelled at her in a joking tone. She waved me off, sticking out her tongue and kept on with her photo-shoot.

As I skipped one of the last rocks and watched it spin across the otherwise undisturbed surface, I noticed a woman standing at the opposite end of the pond. She was maybe fifty or sixty yards away but I could make out that she had long blonde hair, wearing a blue flannel shirt and jeans to match. “That’s odd” I thought. I hadn’t noticed her at all before but being as out in the open as she was, I figured I would have spotted her immediately. I don’t know how she could have just appeared there in the few seconds that I looked down. As far as I knew, there wasn’t any sort of trail that lead to that side of the pond since there was nothing but thick orange and red behind her. Additionally, the perimeter of the shore was far too dense with trees and shrubs for anyone to make their way through unscathed but she looked relatively untouched from what I could see. I turned back to see Mary taking pictures of the entirety of the pond and pocketing her phone at last. “Alright I’m finished are you happy?” She said with a smirk and bumped her hip into mine. I looked back to the opposite edge, but whoever may have been across from us was nowhere to be seen. “Yeah dummy!” I yelled back at her, burying my unease and wrapped my arm around her as we made our way down the trail and back home.

As we exited the mouth of the trail back towards the house, my curiosity was beginning to nag me and I asked Mary if I could see some of the pictures she had taken. She pulled up her phone, opening the recent photos taken and I scrolled through them revealing an impressive array of scenery that the autumn forest provided. Originally distracting me from the main reason I wanted to examine them, I quickly reminded myself to look out for anything unusual. I couldn’t seem to find anything out of the ordinary. I even got to the last pictures taken of the pond, trying to pin-point that exact spot where I had seen the woman. I know she had taken at least a few pictures while I had seen her- I was certain of it. But as I reached the end of the compilation and the end of the screen reared back to the right, I was almost disappointed. I had expected to see something that I could show Mary to let her see that maybe, just maybe that there was something otherworldly going on out here. But the picture revealed nothing. Nothing but an empty portrait facing us where I had seen this woman looking across at us.

“What? You don’t think they’re good?” She asked, probably noticing my disheartened expression. “No! I think they’re great!” I strained. its just- “What?” she asked. “I know you are all worried about me but.. there was a woman across the pond and was looking right at us”, I said. “Oh” she responded in a deflated tone. “Look I know you must think i’m crazy but I swear there was someone there!” I said, pleading for her in frustration to believe me. “You know I really want to believe you, but I want you to stop seeing these things even more. I wish we could just enjoy our time without you getting lost in your own head.” I let my head collapse into my hands, “I just wish you guys would believe me, I swear there is something going on” I said to her. “There is something going on. We are lucky enough to have a place together and you are missing it. That is what’s going on” she responded. I just sat there without a response as she picked herself up and left the room.

I laid there in bed for hours in confusion over what I had seen and anger that it had swooped back into my life right as everything was looking up. That night I knew the moment when I had fallen asleep- It was like I has closed my eyes and opened them up to a new world. I had fallen into this dream already running, memories flooding me of the horrific nightmares I had endured many times before. Only this time there wasn’t a long road, but a battered trail winding through a dense forest, overseeing me as I planted my foot hard into the soil with each turn. However, one similarity showed itself – two lights showing themselves through the sparse openings that the dense leaves provided. I locked on to my old safeguard and found a second wind as I made my way towards it. Swaying my way through the trees, I stumbled on unforgiving roots and felt the sting of frigid branches slap against my skin. My chest grew heavy as I started to hear that unwelcome sound of ravenous panting keeping its pace with me- I was certain of what was behind me. Hearing the muzzle of my pursuer lap up excess saliva that attempted to escape its mouth propelled me forward faster and faster, fighting my way through the vegetation until I literally fell into a clearing. I glanced up frantically then behind me, bracing for a mouth of teeth to rip into my flesh, but the thundering gallops of what was behind had ceased. I looked forward to see a familiar sight.

The pond that I had visited just hours ago sat in front of me. Standing up I noticed another familiar sight.. a woman. The same woman I thought I had seen earlier that day was standing at the opposite edge of the pond. I recognized that long blonde hair that nearly fell to her waist but she was different. She looked rigid, her body contorted in an unnatural way. Her shoulders were uneven, her neck bent at a frightening angle and her skin appeared almost rotten. While she looked to be wearing the same flannel shirt and blue jeans as before, they were filthy and torn. I felt my heart jump up into my throat as she let out this disheartening groan that slithered up my spine. I sat there still as that noise seemed to echo endlessly. I stared at her, fear and anxiety circulating through me- I wanted to wake up. I needed to get out of this as to avoid any further psychological torment but it seemed as if the rest of this world lowered itself down to a mute. She curled her neck in a vomit inducing twist, the grinding of her bones making me cringe. She stared at me for a few moments before she began to make her way towards me. The body of water laying in front of her failed to deter her motivation to advance her creaking, mangled figure. The sight of her movements caused my body to tremble. She looked as if she were a marionette being guided from above as her limbs struggled to take any steps that resembled a human. Ill never forget the way she moved. I could hear her bones writhe and snap as she came at me in this animated fashion. I wanted to just break down and cry right there- I would rather die than endure this hell any longer. With every step her bones continued to bend and fracture in a louder, more grotesque way than the last. She slowly waded through the water, never rising anywhere past waist deep, failing to free me from the horror that was amplifying with each passing second. As her face began to take shape, I could see a look of despair, of pure heartbreak that was caked on her face- perhaps in agony over her broken bones dragging her step by step through the freezing waters. I could see her mouthing something to me. I looked closer but I couldn’t seem to understand what she was trying to say. Her face stressed and was just desperate for me to hear her but the terror coursing through me was reaching a tipping point. I could no longer bare to look at this monstrosity bearing little resemblance of anything close to a person. I turned to try and make my way back down the trail but was promptly frozen in my tracks. There it was: that same beast, monster or demon stood at the entrance of the clearing I had stumbled my way through. It sat there, staring through my being with those horrible, yellow eyes, a hunger swirling inside of them the likes of which I had never seen. I took one step backwards and felt my sinking heart stop as a cold, lifeless hand placed itself on my shoulder followed by an unnerving, inhuman voice in my ear “Please don’t go.”

I sat up sharply in bed screaming to feel Mary with her hands on my shoulders, frantically pleading for me to calm down. Tears beginning to form in her eyes, I struggled to find my voice as I sat there stammering “I-I-I.” Bless Mary’s heart, she laid in bed with me and comforted me as I tried to articulate what had just happened. Again, I felt conflicted because I desperately wanted her to believe me but at the same time I could feel her growing frustration and her patience wearing ever so thin. “They’re just dreams”, I scolded myself. I didn’t want to lose her. She had been a bright spot amidst all of this chaos going on but what can I do when the truth just exacerbates those struggles. As I sat there, relaxing in the comfort of Mary’s hands rubbing my shoulders, I felt anxiety slowly dissipate before Mary’s hands grew icy cold and I felt her breath whisper into my ear “Wake up.”
My vision went black for just a moment. I felt as though my eyes were slowly pried open but my vision was distorted and grainy. Like I was staring up into a bleak overcast, buzzing in a disorganized static. I came to and found myself watching Mary a short ways from me taking pictures with her phone. In a haze I slowly turned my head to see the pond sitting in front of us. My head pounded without mercy as my eyes darted around trying to figure out why I was here or what day it even was. That same question repeated itself, “Am I dreaming?” Mary approached me and bumped her hip into mine once more, “alright i’m finished! You happy?” I sat there in an unnerving state of dejavu as I tried to appear as calm as possible. “Yeah.. do you want to get back to the house?” I responded in a lifeless tone.

We made our way back towards the house and I felt like a zombie shambling my way down the trail. I could see Mary taking concerned glances at me as we progressed our way towards our home. “Everything alright?” she spoke out to me, breaking the silence in my head. “Yeah.. sorry i’m just really tired.” I wasn’t lying however- my body was aching and I felt as if I hadn’t slept in a week. Mary clasped my hand, intertwining her fingers with mine and rested her head on my shoulders the rest of the way back.

We entered the house in an uneasy silence and I made my way to my bed. I laid my body down hard, slightly bouncing as the springs recoiled under my weight. Mary, knowing something was wrong, set her stuff down. “i’m going to get some dinner started okay? You just rest you seem out of it.” Thanks Mary i’m sorry i’m just.. I don’t know i’m just feeling really exhausted. Ill be okay.” She beamed a smile at me and left the room towards the kitchen. I felt a little relaxation sweep over me as I heard the sound of running water from the faucet wash around the sink. From underneath my pillow, I fished out that thin paperback that I turned to so many times. I flipped it to my go to and read it over a few times as I needed to feel like myself again- I needed to ground myself back into the real world and escape these tricks my mind had been playing on me.

“Did you change who you are?
Did you buy a disguise?
Are you the one hiding,
or did I close my eyes?
“Do you just have
too much to do?
Or am I the one
who’s too busy for you?”

Just then, mid sentence into my tenth time reading it through, it hit me. I wasn’t going to let myself fall prey to this cruel force. I wasn’t going to let it drag me back into the darkness and away from this life I had built- I had to fight back. But my lack of sleep was starting to take its toll. My energy was reaching an all time low and it was clear at this point that I could never be so sure of if I was awake or asleep. But I had an idea. If I couldn’t figure out what state of consciousness I was in, I had to leave something for myself to show that I was awake. It could toy with my sense of time and reality, but I had to see if it was capable of replicating the tiniest of details. I had to do something to push back before it took complete control. I grabbed a nearby pen and at the bottom of the poem, I wrote out three words that I could use as a reference, “You are awake.” While its nothing fancy or an elaborate Scooby Doo ghost trap, I figured this would give me a chance to fight back.

The next several weeks were rough. As winter started to tighten its grip on our town and with our house being less than accommodated to handle any conditions of weather, things only got worse. I sat up late shaking in the freezing cold that penetrated our house. Every night for a few weeks I had that same dream of sprinting down that road with that monster trailing behind me. While it sometimes caught me, I could never fully escape to the lights that seemed warmer and more inviting each time around. Most nights I woke up panting in a cold sweat. Even though I knew every time I was just in a dream, the fear was always all too real.

Mary was distraught after helplessly watching me sink into an insomnia fueled depression. Alcoholism had returned with a vengeance as it tempted me with the sweet, short-term relief it provided. I cant help but feel that she holds some resentment towards me, but I guess I cant blame her. Her sunny disposition was replaced by a cloudy aura as she tried her best to believe my ridiculous stories. She really was a saint for sticking around with me. She comforted me every night, would make me tea and rub my neck until I fell asleep. I tried telling her daily how much I appreciate her and how much she meant to me but I felt as though it was putting her on a roller-coaster, having her hear those words only to be woken up by my constant night terrors. I still feel guilty to this day about inadvertently dragging her into my situation. I had never felt so helpless in my life.

With winter being in full swing and having a few weeks off work, I found myself alone in our house very often. With me usually being busy enough to be out of the house for most of the day, I had never really been by myself for long periods of time at home. Mary had recently been promoted to manager at the restaurant she worked at and had to work very long hours while I did everything I could to keep my mind occupied. But throughout this time alone I would hear frequent movement throughout the house. Id try to occupy my time with reading or maybe playing some video games but several times a day I would hear movement in the vacant rooms. Sometimes in my peripherals I thought I would see a flash of blonde hair sliding just out of my vision. I would always feel relief seeing Mary pulling into the driveway after her long shifts knowing that at least I wouldn’t be alone for a period of time.

A few days passed and one day, while Mary was away at work, I decided I needed to try and get out of the house but Mary had borrowed my car after hers had broke down. I decided to take a walk around the neighborhood. I sluggishly pulled myself out of my bed after laying there for the better part of the morning. I was apprehensive at first, being that I may have an unwanted encounter, but sitting inside my house had become too stressful- it seemed as though something had moved in. As I was about to leave my room and exit the house, I stopped. I quickly grabbed my book while walking towards the front door to read, “You are awake.” I let out a relieved sigh. Grabbing the doorknob and exiting my house, I made my way down the road, hoping to find any kind of peace. It was a cold, gray afternoon and my walk was surrounded by a swath of desolate trees, the empty oak and maple branches formed a portrait resembling a mountain range of needles. I scanned every which way, hoping my gaze didn’t meet that resentful pair of eyes, yet hoping on some level that I may.

I wandered along back-roads for a few hours drinking in the day. It felt good to get some endorphins flowing and to do something aside from sit on my butt. My coat wrapped tightly around my body which provided a sense of security that I desperately needed. I reached a dead end on a road maybe a few miles away from my home and decided it was a good sign to return.

I turned around and started my way back to my home, trying to shake off harsh gales of frigid wind blowing through me. I made turn after turn while scrolling through my phone and playing music but when I looked up I noticed something. My surroundings weren’t the same as before. While the basic scenery seemed similar enough, the minute details were lacking. The houses of my sparsely placed neighbors were nowhere in sight and the roads had lost the rising and falling hills that it rolled over. The fear gripped me and I just tried to calmly make my way home. I didn’t know if I had just taken a wrong turn and had gotten myself lost but I seemed to take the same turns over and over again just trying to find the right way. Each road seemed longer and more ominous than the last. I tried pulling out my phone in order to pinpoint my location but I was irritated to see that I was apparently just down the road from my house. I headed towards where my phone was telling me I needed to go but nothing seemed to come of it. There was nothing but endless trees and a fading road ahead of me. I searched and searched, feeling tears rolling down my face as the frustration concerning my crumbling life was boiling over yet again. I couldn’t have been dreaming but the same futile chase that haunted my dreams had found its way into my consciousness. I began to run out of sheer desperation, punching my legs and biting my hands in intervals just hoping I might wake up to Mary beside me, comforting me once again.


Finding my way around a bend, tears choking my throat, I saw my home just at the end of the road. I let out a sigh of elation as my tears of sadness quickly switched to those of happiness. My head tilted down in relief and I laughed at myself for freaking out over getting myself lost. “i’m just a melodramatic idiot” I thought, a smile plastered on my face. I made my way down the driveway but the consistent crunch of gravel beneath my steps was interrupted by a harsh crack. I stepped back and looked down to see the carcass of a small rabbit. The overwhelming stench of rot flooded my nostrils as I covered my nose with my hands to see I had stepped on the protruding rib-cage of the poor animal. its body was torn to shreds, an expression of terror and desperation still lingering in its lifeless eyes. Looking up from it I saw a myriad of animals strewn about the yard- dozens and dozens of them. So many birds, raccoons, squirrels and rabbits laid on the cold ground, emitting a staggering stench of decay. The odor was so great that I turned and vomited. Hands clenched on my face, I sprinted past the carnage, through my front door and frantically scrambled to turn the locks and bolted it shut. But I ran into my room to see hundreds of paw prints painted along the floors, coated in a disgusting, brownish red paste that extended onto my bedspread and my dressers accompanied by deep claw marks running down the walls. I scrambled to find my book, my one answer to where I really was right now. I yanked out dressers, tossing clothing carelessly across the floor. I ripped the blankets and sheets off my bed. “Where is it?!” I screamed. I started to hear aggressive clawing on the front door and an ungodly sound that was a mix of whimpering, snarling, desperate crying, and screaming. I frantically tore through my possessions as the sound increased to a deafening wail that was nearly bursting my ear drums. I fell to my knees, pulling on my hair and began to pray for this unholy spawn to leave me be. I pleaded and I pleaded, rocking back and forth on the floor, begging to be set free.

Shortly after my plea ended, I shot up in bed, trying to slow my hyperventilating breaths. Sweat drained down my neck and back as I looked around in confusion. “Was I just dreaming?” I thought to myself. “When did I fall asleep? How?” It was then that I heard an abrupt knock on the door accompanied with Mary’s voice yelling “Hey! can you let me inside?” I shot up, so happy to finally see her. I unbolted the door and opened it to see her carrying a large bag of food and sporting her usual, room brightening smile and I gave her a kiss on the cheek. I turned back into the house to let her enter and asked her how her shift was as I started to light a candle in the living room, eager to spend the rest of my evening with some good company. However, I was greeted with silence- an unwelcome, haunting silence that I knew was the harbinger to exactly what I didn’t want to see. I reluctantly turned to see that horrible monstrosity standing in the doorway to my house, its menacing figure seeming to tower over my existence. I immediately covered my face and screamed for it to leave. I sat there sobbing in my palms and during frequent breaks of choked cries, I could hear its slow, forced breaths and could feel those all too familiar eyes slicing through me. “Please just go!” I screamed in desperation, too terrified to look at it a second time. “Please! I don’t know what you want, just please leave me be”, I begged.

We both sat there, cradled in moments of tense agony as I stared into the darkness that my hands had shrouded over my eyes. Time seemed to stand still and my heart sank as I heard the sweet sound of Mary’s voice. “Sweetie, its okay.” Deep sadness and anger flushed through me. “No!” I yelled back in hysteria, wanting so much to believe it was her standing across the room from me. “Please.. you’re worrying me.. let me help you.” I sat there, still as a statue, refusing to meet its gaze. “Go away,” I sternly growled at it. Silence. “Just get out. Just get out now!” “Everything is going to be okay” it spoke out. Every inflection, every mannerism within her speech was perfectly replicated. “You’re not real. You’re not real. You are not real”, I repeated to myself in desperation. I couldn’t even convince myself of this though. I stepped back, hands still covering my face, slowly backing my way towards the nearest wall. When my back met its surface, I let myself slide onto the floor, sitting there as Mary’s words continued to echo in my head. “Sweetie, its okay, please just get up and come lie down with me.. I’ve had a very long day.” It wanted me to give in. “Get out of here and don’t ever come back”, I spat. I tried to stand my ground- I tried everything to try and show it that I was not going to be beaten by it. But it already knew me- It knew what strings to pull and what buttons to push. I then heard the haunting sound of Mary crying. “Please i’m trying so hard to help you but I don’t know what else I can do for you. Please just come back to me.” I broke down- knowing how much strife I had thrown Mary into and It continued, “Please.. I love you so much and all I want is for you to get better.” “Please stop!” I exclaimed as I tried to stop the choking misery from pouring out of me. The crying continued and I tried to sit there and push through it, but the sobbing of the woman I loved was crushing what was left of my spirit. I couldn’t bare it any longer. I slid my hands down from my eyes and readied myself to meet my tormentor face to face again. But as I did, something caught the corner of my eye. Sitting on the living room table, was a torn up piece of paper. I reached down and held it up close to my eyes as to not see the terror in front of me. It was a torn out excerpt of the poem I had read through so many time over the last few days.

“Are you too ashamed
to show your face?
Why are you running?
Unlike others, I’ll chase.”

“Just let go, and everything will be okay”, Mary’s voice said softly, almost as though she had said it right into my ear.

I released the shredded paper and looked up to see a dark blur reach me in the blink of an eye. It hit me with the force of a freight train, spearheaded by a mouthful of teeth. It latched onto my upper thigh, lacerating my muscles and tendons as it grunted with excitement. Its strength was unreal but I tried to punch its skull and rib-cage as it tore into my flesh. The pain was excruciating: I could hear the sickening crunches of its mouth effortlessly fracturing my bones as I felt warm blood seep down my leg and onto the floor as I writhed in a pool of dark-red. The blood pouring out of me was soaking into my clothes and all the while I could hear the sweet voice of Mary in my ear saying “Everything will be okay.. just let go.” Those words repeated themselves on an endless loop as it tore at me like a rag-doll while I gave everything I had to try and fight it off of me. My attempts to free myself rapidly weakened as I felt the life drain from my body. My vision started to fade and I felt it release its vice-grip on me and I looked up. It stood over me, my blood coating its mouth as it stared coldly into my eyes without any shred of remorse. That same hunger and malice flooded its eyes as it gazed down at me while I trembled in horrible pain on the floor. I pressed my hands along the many deep wounds on my leg just trying to stop myself from bleeding out. All the while it just sat there, so still and domineering. I started to crawl away, my nails digging into the wooden floor, peeling back and breaking as I tried to find safety. I didn’t know where I was trying to go or how I could even escape but I refused to just lay there and let myself die without a fight. My body felt as though it carried the weight of a dying star as I strained to pull myself away. All of my energy reserves being depleted, I turned and stared right at it. “You’re not real. You are nothing”, I hissed and spat right at its face in a dying rage as my head fell onto the hard wood. It snarled menacingly, revealing a mouth of enormous, jagged teeth and lunged at me once more, clamping its jaws deep into my throat. Blood filled my windpipe and flowed down into my lungs and I gurgled in anguish before hearing one last horrid crunch. “Everything is okay”, I heard Mary’s voice say one more time, and everything faded to black.

A ray of sunlight breaking through a window caused my eyes to slowly open as the heat warmed my face. I rubbed my eyes- so drained and perplexed from reality and dreams transcending each other through these violent acrobatics. I didn’t know if I was actually awake and frankly, I was so weathered that I didn’t even really care to check. I fully came to to feel my hand clenched on the doorknob, my book sitting where I had last sat it down. My phone buzzed in my pocket and I checked the time- 3:10 pm. A message from Mary read, “Work is crazy.. someone didn’t show up and i’m covering all of their tables. Can’t wait to just get out of here and come home.” She had barely been gone an hour.. I dreaded the fact that I had to wait another six hours of being alone in that god forsaken house- if I was actually awake that is. I picked the book back up and opened up the marked page. “You are awake.”

I sat around for the remainder of the day watching movies on my laptop just trying to distract myself. I dared not leave the house- I knew it was out there just outside my door, waiting for me. Hours dragged on and every sound outside caused me to jump. I probably spent half the time peeling back the curtain and looking outside. A few times I could have sworn I could see this thing standing at the edge of the adjacent forest where I first saw it but I would quickly shut the curtain before I could discern what it may have been. I was losing my mind- I never wanted to see it but on another level, I couldn’t help myself. Maybe I was hoping that it would just bust down my door and end all of this. As the sun went down, I flicked all the lights on in my house for some comfort.

Laying in my bed and continuing to watch movies, I kept seeing flashes of blue and blonde standing just outside of my door frame. I tried to ignore it, but every time my focus returned to my laptop for an extended time, I would see that same array of color darting just behind the door frame. I began to feel frustration prod at me. I couldn’t leave the house at risk of running into that evil but staying in the house, it would relentlessly toy with me. I couldn’t even go to sleep to try and erase the time I had to wait through as it had all but taken over my life outside of consciousness. Every time I would catch that put of the corner of my eyes, I would fling my book open, “You are awake” it read time after time. I tried switching to watching something more cheerful and turned on The Office. I hoped that seeing my favorite Scranton residents would bring a little joy to my day as I waited endlessly for Mary to come home.

As an episode ended and I got up to make myself some food, I heard the shower turn on over on the other side of the house. The initial sound made me jump as I was already tightly wound. I slowly made my way across the house towards the bathroom. The lights inside were off but I could hear the water roaring down. As I reached for the doorknob I could hear the chilling sound of a woman starting to cry. I froze, not sure if I wanted to see what was on the other side but I couldn’t just sit there and let the water blast full force without shutting it off. The crying continued.. it was an awful sound. I sat there with my hand on the knob trying to force myself to open the door but I was just stuck in place. I started to turn away after letting go of the knob but a familiar voice sent chills down my back. “Please don’t go”, I heard from the other side of the door. I froze, goosebumps forming on my arms, and just stared at the door- the consistent sound of running water still flooding into my ears. “Who are you?” I meekly spoke out. Silence.. “Who are you?” I repeated with more authority at the closed door. Suddenly, the water shut off and I sat there paralyzed as the doorknob slowly clicked and the door creaked open just a crack. Even in the dark room I could make out that unmistakable blonde hair shining in the small aperture that the open door provided. “Do you know whats happening to me?” I asked. Again, silence. “Please.. just tell me.. why are you here?” My ears were ruptured by an inhuman sobbing that followed my question and the repeating phrase, “Please don’t go! Please don’t go! Please don’t go!” I stepped back, completely terrified. The door slowly pulled open just a bit more and the face of a beautiful woman revealed itself: tears rolling down her face, her lips quivering. Shaken, I was able to force out another “Why are you here?” She brushed the hair away from her face and looked right at me with bright, turquoise eyes. “Please..” I uttered. She looked down to the floor and continued to sob uncontrollably. “What were you doing at the pond?” She continued to cry. “I don’t know what you’re trying to say” I said to whoever or whatever was standing just in front of me. Her neck snapped up to show that horrific rotted face I had seen at the pond. Her eyes glowed a bright yellow and she screamed in an ungodly voice “Don’t go!” and the door slammed shut with such great force that it shook the whole house and caused nearby hanging pictures to fall down.

I sat there on the floor, bewildered as minutes passed by and I just stared at the bathroom door. I picked myself up and was able to force myself forward and slowly turn the handle to push open the door. Everything inside appeared normal as if none of it even happened. I could hear intermittent droplets of water splash onto the shower floor and I pulled back the curtains- nothing was there. “Is this my life now?” I thought to myself as I stood in the empty room gazing into the shower. I felt numb- the frequent paranormal outbursts beginning to become a part of my daily routine. Reality was now a cruel obstacle I had to hurdle with every other step.
At last those headlights showed themselves and I heard the car pull in door shut, followed shortly after by Mary knocking on the door. “Hey! can you let me inside?” I heard from the other side of the door. I sat there on the opposite side just staring at the knob. “its just Mary, you can open the door”, I told myself but my inhibitions prevented me from doing so. “Hello? Can you please let me in?” I heard the door rattle as Mary was showing me that it was bolted and could not access it with the key. “Is it you?” I called out. “What do you mean? Of course its me just open the door I’m freezing!” she responded. “I don’t believe you”, I responded with hate in my tone. “What? Please stop messing around and let me in!” I reluctantly unbolted the door and pulled it open just enough for her to push it open. She walked in giving me that concerned look. “Please don’t hurt me”, I weakly mumbled to her as I turned to collapse on the bed.

Mary didn’t say anything. She sat on the edge of the bed next to me and stroked my back. “I don’t know whats happening to you, but you need to get yourself help.. otherwise, I don’t know if I can do this..” “Leave then”, I hissed. “You don’t believe me. you just think I’m crazy.” “I think you seriously need help sweetheart” she said, attempting to console me while getting her point across. I rolled over, burying my head in the pillow and swept the blankets over my head. Mary sat next to me, reading for an hour or so, occasionally reaching over to stroke my back and head. I eventually reached up and grasped her hand tightly. She rubbed her thumb along the back of my hand and I felt myself drift into sleep.

I woke up in the middle of the night. I glanced over to see Mary fast asleep and I turned over to look across the room- waiting to see if a nightmare would begin to unfold itself. I sat there in the deep silence for a few minutes, waiting for something but it appeared as if I was in the clear for the night. As my eyes began to grow heavy and I felt sleep coming back to me, I heard something in the kitchen just outside of our room. It was a light, scraping sound. I waited for a minute to see if anything followed but every time I nearly fell back asleep, I could hear that scraping. It eventually hit me.. It was the distinct sound of a dogs claws walking across a linoleum floor. That light thud immediately followed by the scratching of claws across the surface of the floor. I heard it take scattered steps to be followed by a minute or two of silence. It would cut off after a few steps and seem to turn back around the other way as if it were pacing around the kitchen. I pulled out my book and read, “you are awake.” Against my better judgment, I pulled myself out of the bed and pressed my ear to the bedroom door. The steps continued, joined by the sound of a dog’s muzzle eagerly sniffing the surroundings of a newly discovered area. I opened the door and slowly trudged out towards the kitchen. I should have just stayed in bed but frustration fueled me to just get these incidents over with. My eyes still adjusting to the pitch black house, I looked over the room in front of me. After about thirty seconds or so I could see the glow of yellow eyes staring at me from the other side of the kitchen. I sat there, staring into them for a few moments, almost daring it to come for me but it just laid still. I closed my eyes, shutting them tightly for a few seconds and took some deep breaths. When I opened them, the eyes were gone. I repeated that action a few more times in order to assure that it wasn’t there. I turned and made my way back to my room but I collided with something heavy and limp in the doorway, causing me to lose balance and fall backwards onto the ground. I heard the creaking of old wood above me and I looked up to see a horrific sight. Dangling in the doorway was a body, hanging from a noose attached to a rafter on the ceiling. I screamed and covered my head, curling up into the fetal position as I laid on the kitchen floor.

I heard Mary wake up and rush out of bed to my side as I sat there, inconsolable. She didn’t speak, she just sat there with me and held me as I cried. I kept pointing to the doorway as gibberish poured out of my mouth, begging Mary to believe me. For the remainder of the night I laid awake, the sounds of that thing circling the outside of the house held me hostage. Every minute or so I would hear it make its way around to my side of the house, slowing its gait a bit and seeming to stop at my window for a few moments each go around. I kept glancing over to Mary as she was fast asleep, hoping she would maybe hear something, proving me right once and for all. But she never did and I dared not wake her up knowing she had already gotten up once tonight to humor my stories. I stared at her and anger began to curdle inside of me- resentful towards her for not believing me and infuriated at the beast that was unfolding my sanity. Every time it made its way to my window it would stop and I could feel it staring me down, longing to be let inside. After this went on for an hour or so, those outside sounds were joined by light scratching running slowly along the sides of the house. I could hear very faint mumbling just barely penetrating the walls but I could not make out any words. I would attentively raise my head up every time the mumbling made its way by the window and I could see the foggy silhouette of a person sliding through the moonlight. My eyes switched from the window to Mary’s sealed eyelids, eager to see if she would come to and my temptation to shake her awake increased. They continued for hours eventually melding into a somewhat soothing cadence of sound that somehow lulled me to sleep. Perhaps so it could see me in my dreams.

The circling continued for several nights in a row. The nightmares would shoot me awake like a farmer prodding his cattle. I would sit there in deafening silence, listening intently for anything only to sit in suspense as nothing made itself heard. The air was heavy and I was sick with apprehension as this thing chipped me away bit by little bit. One night however, after waking up and sitting in the dark by routine, a barely audible noise made itself known. At first I couldn’t quite make it out but it sounded like strained wheezing. The sound was quiet at first, but over several minutes it was ringing in my head. It was the only sound coming from the night, no crickets, not even wind blowing. I tried covering my ears and throwing the pillow over my head but the sound was blaring in my ears at this point. It got to the point that it was deafening as I could feel my heartbeat pulse loudly in my temples, the room around me caving in so tight that it was crushing me. I tried to shut it out but no matter what I did I just couldn’t get it to stop. The intolerable sound of breaths forcing their way into my ears began to slowly die down before cutting off completely. I rose up once again to my window but was unable to see anything in the thick blackness. I made my way to each window of the house, peering out closely at the yard before moving on to the next. The last window remaining was the one just next to the front door. The wheezing resumed accompanied by the sounds of running water and light footsteps. I slowly made my way to the window, my index finger lightly resting on the switch controlling the porch light. I inhaled slowly and flipped it on, keeping my eyes closed for a few seconds to brace myself for anything awful that I might see.

The lights flooded the once pitch black yard with a glow that strained my vision at first. I looked out the window and I saw it. The woman, sitting there in a limp, lifeless pile as the monster held her neck within its jaws tightly. It stared right through the window to me, its eyes pulsing with excitement and satisfaction while the woman’s cold, dead eyes sank deep into my heart. “I’m completely insane” I thought- I no longer believed what my eyes were presenting to me. The woman’s mouth fell open and I could see her mouthing to me once again, but this time I could make out the words. “Help”, her lips showed. “Help.” I stared with blankness back into them, almost in solidarity as I felt completely trapped as her neck was clenched within its maw. I just looked at it for a little while, almost.. bored. I turned off the light and just stood there, numb, for a minute or so before I made my back to bed and went to sleep.

Weeks went on and I slipped into a gray. I no longer cared for anything, including myself. I stopped showing up for work and I remained distant to Mary, spending my days shut in behind closed blinds, drowning myself in alcohol. Dreams and reality had melded into one and it seemed like I was either asleep or swimming my way to an empty bottle. That first dream that started it all was finding me every night but I no longer cared to run as I didn’t care for life anymore. I would just stand up, turn around and scowl at the dark until I was consumed alive, every morsel of pain erupting through my cells. Sometimes I would be greeted by Mary staring down at me as I laid in bed in a drunken stupor. Every time she would pull out part of the little reserves she had to make me feel better as I aggressively shrugged off her patrony to try and find sleep once more. But no matter what world I fell into, sleeping or conscious, there was no exit. There was no exit.

Mary had had enough. She sat on the end of the bed as I downed the remainder of my comfort. She gave me the usual speech about how I had a lot of problems that I needed to sort out and that she no longer could be the one to try and fix them. I polished off my bottle as she finished her speech and I don’t remember exactly what she had said, but I do remember saying, “well what are you waiting for?” with a cold grin. I wish I hadn’t sent her off that way. Mary.. She was the sweetest soul I had ever came across but I allowed the darkness forcing its way into me to flow outward to her and I bullied her away. As she briskly walked to her car with a box of her possessions, I trailed her and laughed out my misery. She slammed the car door and I threw my empty bottle on the gravel, glass disintegrating into my shins and ankles as I walked to her car window screaming “Leave then!” She floored it in reverse and sped away. God I wish that wasn’t the last I had seen of her.. I miss her so much.


The night after Mary left and I drank myself into unconsciousness, I found myself picking myself up on that same road to journey into the same dream. I looked up and the lights seemed closer than they ever had. I stood up but felt no fear- no presence laying behind me or overwhelming fear boiling over. I walked towards them with ease as they sat there, dangling their open arms. I needed the comfort and warmth more than ever. My walk transitioned into a slow, awkward jog as they moved closer while I did as well. Jogging turned into a sprint as I raised my hand up, hoping it would maybe reach out and pull me into bliss. I got closer and closer, certain that I would finally find out what was just ahead of me all of this time. I was nearly there, arms stretched out to let sweet relief in but as my fingertips were inches away, I felt the rip of unforgiving teeth sink into my leg, followed by a violent force dragging me back down the road I had run down so many times. Gravel buried into my skin and painful scrapes screamed as I flew backwards. I felt my body form into thousands of shapes and unfold as I tumbled along the road, jaws clenched tightly on me. I flew back into the darkness and those lights dimmed and dimmed and dimmed until they were but a spec of light poking through a hole in my curtains as morning carried me back into the world.

Even though Mary was gone, I did not find myself without company. Shuffling noises throughout the house and images of blonde hair flying by my peripherals kept me from complete loneliness. Not to mention I had a dog just outside my home to greet me whenever I desired- truly the american dream. Spending my days in a haze I neglected to clean up any of my messes or even pay any of my bills. My water and electricity were cut off and I spent some time sitting in a dark, unventilated house as I was buried in my own filth. I had to watch myself suffer to fill myself with a jaded sense of justice. After a few weeks my landlord came by. I was greeted by furious pounding on the door and I opened it up. He stood there, his angry expression quickly turning to one of worry. “I haven’t gotten your check for the rent last month and the most recent payment is also due” he said to me. “i’m sorry sir”, I said in an empty tone and invited him inside. He followed me in and I could feel his eyes sweeping over the heaps of garbage kept there by my neglect. I brushed off some trash and found my checkbook, promptly writing him out a check for the last few months with a little extra for his trouble. “Is everything okay?” he asked me, his genuine concern showing. “Everything is great”, I spat back. He looked into my eyes with familiarity and it looked like he wanted to say something to me but he turned and quickly made his way out. I slammed the door behind him and bolted it shut.

My heart jumped after I slammed the door shut when I heard a voice from the kitchen, “Who was that?” I sat there staring towards the other end of the house, wondering if I had just hallucinated that. Silence began to grow in volume as I just sat still for long minutes. I gathered up the courage to patrol the house to maybe get something to show itself. I checked the spare bedrooms, bathroom and every closet possible just to see if anything would happen. I made my way to the door leading to the back porch and as I slid it open I heard Mary’s voice just behind me, “what are you doing?” I nearly jumped out of my skin but tried to maintain an appearance of composure. “Is that you?” I quietly responded. At first nothing answered back but several seconds later, a monotone, layered version of Mary’s voice crawled into my ears, “its me.” Tears started to roll down my face as I could feel the crushing presence of it standing just inches behind me. “I miss you so much”, I sobbed out. “I am always here” the lifeless tone spoke to me. I turned around to see an empty house.

The sweet voice of my old companion rang through the house, unrelenting for several days. They always brought me to a place of serenity before slamming me back on to the hard floor to look up to an empty home. Her voice was music to my ears even though I knew none of it was real- at least real outside of my own head. If I couldn’t feel her touch then maybe I could take advantage of not being able to tell my own state of consciousness. I needed her and it knew this. It took her away.

I had enough and couldn’t stand the constant pricks and prods at my insecurities. I left my house early the next morning, heading to the nearest gun shop to find something that could provide some comfort- whether it serve as protection or as an exit. After a brief conversation with the store tenant, I paid and went home. I waited the time needed before being able to receive my goods. After bringing it home I just sat it on my nightstand and just looked at it for a while- the bright silver color sticking out in my dark room like a sore thumb. I reached for it a few times but would pull back as the small part of me that held self preservation screamed at me. As I held the box of bullets in my hand, turning them over procrastinating and I heard a sudden knock at the door. Startled, I sat up and opened up the door to see the landlord standing there. Not sure what he was doing on my porch I blurted out “did my check not go through?” “No it went through just fine”, he responded, motioning for me to let him inside and I obliged. He walked in, taking in the disarray that the house had fallen in to.

He sat at my kitchen table, seeming to go over what to say in his head. Things were starting to feel tense as he sat at the kitchen table, tapping his fingers nervously on the surface. “You know I used to live in this house”, his voice breaking the heavy silence. His frankness caught me a bit off guard. He looked at me but I could not seem to formulate an appropriate response. “About ten years ago, me and my wife bought this house.” he paused as if to collect himself-looking out the window with a look of reflection on his face. I sat there waiting to hear the rest of what he had to say but he just turned and looked at me. His eyes shot down quickly and he rubbed his hand down his face as he let out a deep, raspy exhale. I didn’t know if I should say anything but he wasn’t really giving me much to go off of. He sat there looking down, his eyes occasionally darting around the house. His eyes stopped on the doorway to my room and stuck there for what felt like minutes. Right as I was about to speak up to break the silence, he finally continued. “We moved in here shortly after marrying. Lucille was an amazing woman. She was about the only bright spot in my life”, he said as his closing words were choking up. “Was?” I asked, not really knowing where this was going. His mouth opened like he was going to say something but he just sat there, not able to pull out any words. I stared at him as he stared into nothingness. A long silence ensued and I felt a deep sadness overtake the air. I stood there uncomfortable, watching this grown man seeming to hold back tears as I noticed his gaze had shifted back to my bedroom doorway. “If you don’t mind.. could I see your bedroom?” he inquired. Normally I would treat this as an imposition or at least an invasion of my privacy but I really wanted to escape this awkward scene. “Um.. sure”, I said with a bit of uncertainty in my voice. He picked himself up and walked by me. He reached for the door, turned it, and watched it slowly open. I looked at him as he stood in the doorway, his height nearly reaching the bottom of the frame. He reached his hand out and ran it down the rugged wood. I sat there for several minutes as my landlord laid still, swimming in what I assumed to be old memories of when he lived here. “What happened to Lucille?” I blurted out without thinking, regretting it immediately as it was clear that something tragic had occurred. He turned back and made eye contact, “She died” he said without hesitation. I was about to apologize before he said “thank you” and briskly walked out of the house. I watched from my bedroom window as Derek entered his truck, started it, and floored out of the driveway in one fluid motion. I looked back at my only companions as they glowed in the unlit room and proceeded to slither my way under the dirty sheets.

I didn’t really know what to think at first of this visit. It was obvious that there was something I wasn’t being told. I sat around the house for a few days in the cold emptiness just mulling over all of the possibilities- the uncertainty beginning to nag at me. “What could he have wanted?” I thought to myself for a few days. I sat alone in the darkness, wallowing in my depression, all the while I heard Mary’s voice echoing throughout the house. It was toying with me once more but I was so numbed to it that I barely even dignified any of it with a response. I had truly grown to hate this thing that had corrupted every fiber of my being.

I no longer found joy in anything. The last of my optimism had been thoroughly snuffed out and I was waking up angry that I was still alive. Desperate for some kind of answer, I decided to make my way to my landlord’s house. I pulled into his driveway right behind his blue, Ford pick-up and made my way up his driveway. I knocked on his door and stepped back, waiting. No answer as minutes passed. I knocked again and called out “hey! is anyone home?”- no response. I was confused as I looked back to be reminded that his car was in the driveway. I sat there waiting for a little bit but still nothing. I sat on the porch steps and looked out at the woods but unfortunately, there was something in them. Even though it was the middle of the day, I could see that bright glow of eyes staring at me from the treeline. Those eyes that I had come to loathe- the harbingers of misery looked directly at me. I shot up and pounded on the door. “Hello? please is there anyone home?” I yelled out with urgency in my voice. I turned back and saw it standing at the end of the driveway, just behind my car. Ready to bust down the door I grabbed the knob and turned with great force, to be surprised that it was unlocked as I nearly fell through the doorway and into the house. Getting my bearings as I picked myself up I stared into house. It was eerily silent- every step I took seemed to echo a thousand times over as I planted each step into the creaking, wooden floor. “Hello?” I repeated once more. I looked around and I noticed that pair of boots that he was always wearing, standing by the door, along with his large set of keys sitting on a nearby coffee table. The silence in the house was absolutely suffocating. The persistent ringing in my ears that you get in a deep quiet was becoming insufferable and I found myself feeling drawn to one of the bedroom doors on the other side of the kitchen. I slowly made my way towards it, my footsteps so loud that I felt as though the wooden floors would crack under me any second. I reached the doorway and pushed it open. I sat there just outside the doorway with apprehension. Something was telling me not to go in to this room but I had come this far and I wasn’t going to just turn back now. I begrudgingly stepped through the entrance.. and there he was.

There was my landlord, sprawled across his bed, dried blood coated his arms and neck. He had slit his wrists and throat- a horrible look of sadness covered his face, his eyes still red from tears. I fell back against the wall behind me, the smell of decay only just now hitting me as if it was waiting for my presence. I covered my mouth and gagged as I went over what I should do in my head. I reached for my phone to call the police only to be reminded that it hadn’t been charged in days due to my electricity being shut off. I groaned in frustration as I struggled to take my eyes off of the lifeless body in front of me. But that is when I noticed the piece of paper sitting just next to my landlord on the nightstand. Still covering my mouth I made my way over and snatched it up. “I miss you so much and I can never forgive myself for leaving you when you needed me the most. I love you so much and I hate myself for knowing you aren’t around to forgive me. I cant live knowing how I left you, thinking about how much you just needed someone there. I can’t go on in this life without you and the chance that I might see you after this is what brought me to this. Please be there. I’ll never leave your side again” the note read. I read it over a few times and assumed this was concerning his former wife. “So how did she die?” I said to myself as the whisper evaporated into the room. I pulled the paper down and rested it back down on the table and what I saw made me flinch. Sitting on his bedside table in a picture frame was a photograph of a woman. My mouth fell open and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was that same woman- that woman who I had seen at the edge of the pond and who had been patrolling through the darkness of my house all day and night. Those bright, turquoise eyes struck me with such distinction-there was no mistaking. I turned and sprinted out of the house, so terrified that I had all but disregarded the corpse that had laid in front of me moments ago. I ran out the front door and down the driveway and in the corner of my eye I could see that monster standing just behind my car. I tried to ignore it and jumped into my car and floored it into reverse, hoping I would maybe run over that thing standing just behind it but I was let down to feel my car fly backwards unhindered. I threw the gear into drive and slammed my foot on the gas pedal, looking into the rear-view mirror I saw those horrible, horrible eyes staring at me from behind the car. I flew down unpaved back-roads with no regard for my own safety, filled with dread knowing that the home I was returning to was inhabited by cruelty. I barely hit the brakes in time as I sped into the driveway, just sparing the side of my house from the front of my car. I ran out of the car but there in the window just beside the front door, stood the woman. her blonde hair was draped over her face as she stood motionless. “Lucille?” I muttered, and the figure quickly turned and shifted out of view. I stood there for a moment before hearing the crunch of gravel behind me. I didn’t turn around at first, I knew what was behind me.. I heard a few more slow steps and I turned around. It stood there, not even ten feet from me. There I was again- stuck between a rock and a hard place. Right then, I heard the front door open and it creaked as if it were releasing decades of neglect. The beast stared while taking slow, deliberate steps towards me as I matched them with my own steps backwards. I turned and sprinted through the open door and slammed it shut behind me. I looked out the window to see that it was gone. But right then I felt that familiar cold hand rest on my shoulder, only sharp nails dug deep into me, puncturing my skin.

Terror and exhaustion overtook me and I lost consciousness. Those same nightmares infested my dreams and I woke up every hour, more tired than the last time I had fallen asleep. I was eventually able to force myself off of the hard floor and into my bed, though it would do little to help my sleep. Dreams of the pond and of that road presented themselves every time I fell back into a slumber. But the more I ran to the lights in my dreams, the more I felt myself straying away from reality as I stewed in a puddle of my own delusion when I woke. My new friend laying on the nightstand was tempting me with more comfort as the time passed and I had to pull my hand back several times from reaching for its help. I poured my way through another bottle as I laid in the accumulated filth I had neglected to discard. As I felt the last of my reserves swirl in my mouth and down my throat, I heard another knock at the door. In a haze, I stood up from my pile and made my way towards the door, but as I approached it, I stopped. “Hey its me! Can you let me inside?” I heard from just outside the front door. I just stood there. The same phrase repeated itself but followed by “its freezing out here, can you open the door?” Of course I recognized that voice- I’d recognize that sweet voice anywhere. “Leave” I hissed. The voice repeated itself again.. and again.. and again. “Leave!” I repeatedly shouted at a door over and over. Every now and then it would change it up a bit with a “please?” and I would change things up with a “Fuck off.” I grew tired of this and just went back to laying in bed, covering my ears with my dirty pillows but the knocking persisted, occasionally growing louder and more urgent over a few hours. After it appeared to finally give up for a few minutes I was sitting in a comfortable silence for once before I heard my sweet Mary’s voice from the door whimper out “don’t you love me?” I had enough- I grabbed the revolver from my nightstand and fired off all six shots right at the door in quick succession.

I laid there as hot smoke billowed in front of my face and felt instant regret. I had shot holes clear through my front door at some imaginary force. I paced around my living room with my hands on my head, still wrapped around the handle of the magnum. “Fuck!” I screamed out as if I had finally woken up to all of the insanity I had conjured. My ears were still ringing and I made my way to the front door to see the damage. I didn’t really know what I was expecting since I had shot a full clip of my gun through it but there was definitely some serious damage. I slammed my hand on the door, still clenching the gun and let my head rest against the wood. Light poured through the newly made openings and my eye happened to catch something out of place through the nearest hole. I stared through and tried to discern the palate of colors meshed into a distorted cluster. I swung the door open and the sunlight all but disintegrated my eyes. As they adjusted I glanced down and everything in my world crashed. Mary laid there, riddled with bullet holes as she wheezed and gurgled on the front porch. “Mary!” I exclaimed, tears already pouring down my face. She reached up and caressed my face and smiled. “its okay” she said. “No Mary.. No please do not leave like this.. I am so sorry. Please we can fix this please don’t go! Please don’t go!” I yelled. “Everything will be okay” she repeated to me. “Don’t go!” I screamed again. I sat there and cried on her just holding her and praying to God that she wasn’t about to die right here in front of me like this-Not like this. I held Mary, rocking back and forth on the porch just trying to comfort her like she had for me so many times before. She laid there in my arms, slowly slipping away from me as I pleaded for her to stay with me. “I cant lose you!” I screamed as I bawled my eyes out. She looked at me with those deep, compassionate eyes that had grounded me time and time again. Tears rolled down her face as the brightness in her eyes started to dim. “Mary? Mary? Please stay with me!” It was too late- I felt the last of her life slip out of her and she slumped in my arms. I just sat there holding her for a while and pressed my head onto hers, inconsolable. I carried her inside and laid her onto our bed and I loaded one shell into the revolver. I laid next to Mary’s lifeless body and kissed her once on the forehead before sticking the gun into my mouth and pulling the trigger.

Everything went black and I waited to see what the beyond held for me. It felt as though I was awake but I just couldn’t open my eyes. But then I saw exactly what I didn’t want to see. Two lights materialized in front of me. And a road formed beneath my feet. “No..” I said to myself. “No!” If I had been sent to hell for taking my own life, was this going to be it? Was I going to be chasing these lights for all eternity? I fell onto the road, defeated- I couldn’t go on like this anymore but I guess there really was no exit. I waited to hear it begin its chase behind me, precursing my subsequent chase to safety. But I didn’t hear anything. I stood up and looked back but like always there was nothing but darkness behind me. I just stood still as long minutes droned on but I didn’t hear anything. I actually started to feel relieved, almost happy actually. “Maybe I finally escaped it” I had thought. Almost needing to hold back a grin from bearing on my face, I began to walk towards those two lights. As I made my way I could hear Mary’s voice “Sweetie where are you?” and “I’m over here! Come see me already I’ve been waiting!” I couldn’t help but smile, so sure I was just steps away from eternal happiness. I made my way towards those lights, at last I was going to reach them I just knew it. I couldn’t wait- those warm inviting glows that had seemed so elusive for so long were all but hanging right in front of me, so close that I felt I could pluck them from the ether and hold it in front of my eyes. I was approaching them, closer than I had ever been, they were climbing higher and higher as I advanced and I started to feel as though they were out of reach yet again. I was right in front of them and they stood above me, so close but still somehow unattainable. I reached up to them, almost as a plea for the other side to take me beyond. I swayed my hand back and forth in the air for a little while, unsure of what I was supposed to do. However I felt my hand run across something broad and rugged. I was surprised and took a step back but only to be greeted by a sudden rush of air. I stared up at the lights inquisitively and I heard a deep exhale as I felt another rush of air blow through me. I turned around, heartbroken to see if it was behind me yet again but there was nothing. Again I felt that rush of air, accompanied by another deep exhale. Then it hit me. it hit me like a ton of bricks. I didn’t want to recognize it but I turned back to where the wind originated from and I looked up to those glows. My heart sunk.. all the hope that had built up after pulling the trigger was pulled out from under me. Those two lights hanging above me were now glowing that putrid shade of yellow. That unrelenting hunger that preyed upon my mind for months towered above me, mocking me. I saw a colossal mouth bear enormous, disgusting teeth each one as big as me while the enormity of the beast imposed itself onto my soul.. I swear it was smiling at me. The mouth shot towards me and crushed every bone in my body, my blood exploding into a fine mist in every direction before it swung me around and threw me onto the road- my body bloody and broken and mind weathered down to grains of sand. All I could think of was Mary- how much love she had given me and how she was the greatest thing that had ever happened. I felt as though hell had found me. It lowered its open mouth back down and scooped me up with ease and my body rolled and turned, bouncing off its rancid gums and rotting teeth as it pulverized every last bit of me until I felt myself slide down into the darkness.

The darkness slowly deteriorated away as I began to slip back into consciousness. I stood there in my room, gun clenched in one hand with the other on the doorknob. No more holes in the door, Mary no longer laying lifeless in my bed. I grabbed my book and flipped to the page I left my clue on, “You are awake.” With that, I hastily stuffed my clothes into trash-bags, along with the other essentials and I made my way to the door to hopefully just leave this misery behind me. An ear splitting voice screaming “Don’t go!” repeated itself from behind me, nearly shaking the house with the immense volume. I fumbled for the doorknob, dropping my trash-bags in the process and swung the door open. All of this time I could still hear that voice screaming in my head now. But when I exited the house, that nightmare was sitting just beyond the porch staring at me. I pulled out the gun from the depths of my bags, flipped the safety off and fired that one bullet that it had left in it- trying to take the life that had all but taken mine. It connected, hitting it almost right between the eyes and I heard it whimper for a second before slumping to the ground. I didn’t trust that it was really gone though so I sprinted to the car, not wanting to fall for its tricks. When I got into my car and drove off, those words continued to bellow in my head. “Don’t go! Don’t go!” I sped down the road, unable to resist seeing what I was leaving behind, I glanced into the rear-view mirror and there it stood in the middle of the road. Still as a statue as always, hulking and intimidating. I pressed my foot harder on the gas and kept on. I didn’t know where I was going but as long as it was away from that god forsaken place, it didn’t matter. Every so often I would glance back in the rear-view mirror, just to see it standing in the road behind me as my car flew by at dangerous speeds.

I made my way through several states, staying at various motels as I spent most of the night cracking blinds in apprehension of what may come. A week went by before I decided to dial my grandparents to let them know I was alone and just needed somewhere to be for a little while as I got my life back together. They were understanding as always and wanted me there as soon as possible. I made my way to them in a few days and all the while I seemed to be free. I slept soundly for the first time in months and I was feeling great. My energy was back to a normal level, I was sleeping and I hadn’t had a drink in almost two weeks. Despite this, paranoia was still lingering in my mind as I was always waking up by shooting out of bed trying to catch my breath. A smile would form on my face as I was grateful to have made it out alive. But the one big thing that bothered me was that in reality, it had won- it got me to pull the trigger.

I had stayed at my grandparents house for nearly a month, feeling myself gain back my sanity. I felt great and it was good to spend some time with my family after not seeing them for all these months. It also felt good to finally leave behind my persistent attachments that were so deeply rooted. I even started talking to Mary again and while she was wary at first, I was able to slowly earn back her trust. I was feeling like my old self again and I was just lucky that she was such a forgiving soul to give me another chance. I was sitting in my grandparents living room watching some TV when I heard a faint knock at the front door. I muted the TV, not sure if I had actually heard it.

I waited a second and again, a very faint knock emanated from the opposite side of the door. “Must be one of their neighbors” I thought as it may have been an older woman weakly tapping her knuckles on the door. I opened the door but only to see nothing in front of me. I poked my head out and looked around to see if there was anyone nearby but nothing showed itself. I slowly closed the door and made my way back to the couch to continue watching TV. After I watching for several minutes I heard a similar, light knocking on the door. This time I quickly picked myself up to swing the door open. At first I saw nothing, just my grandparents’ front yard but as I swept my eyes over the area, I saw someone at the end of the long driveway that connected to the walkway. It was a woman- long dark hair blanketing her face as she stood painfully still facing me. I knew the second I looked at her- it was Mary.

I slowly made my way towards her. “Mary?” I called out- her body slightly twitched with my words. Feeling a little uneasy I stopped about twenty feet from her, her face focused downward as her hair dangled over. “Mary what are you doing here?” I pressed. “I came to see you” her voice rang out, music to my ears to hear that sweet sound once again. I advanced towards her but as I did her appearance started to deteriorate. With each step, her face weathered and her hair grayed. I gazed upon her and her clothes were now tattered and ripped apart, mud and blood caked across her skin. She looked up at me with familiar despair in her eyes- claw marks and blood strewn all around her lovely figure. “Mary?” Her eyes slowly turned from the soft brown to an electric yellow- that same yellow that I had come to despise. “I am always here” a layered voice spoke out. I closed my eyes, hoping that this wasn’t real. “Look at me!” a distorted voice spat. I opened my eyes and Mary was gone but in her place stood that monster I thought I would never see again. Hatred and misery burned brightly in its eyes as it stood there, rigid as a block of wood. I recognized the underlying feelings in its eyes-abandonment. The same look I would see in the mirror when I was young and filled with hate. It shot towards me and I turned and sprinted back into the house, stumbling over my own steps as I desperately scrambled to locate the book that signaled my state of consciousness. I hadn’t needed to open it in weeks and couldn’t remember where I left it. As desperate clawing and growling came from the other side of my bedroom door I finally found it blending in with the shelf. I furiously turned the pages over and over to gain clarity of where I was. Every bit of my soul withered away when I found the poem and read the bottom of the page.

“Wake up.”

CREDIT : NamesJames (a.k.a. NamesJames0933)

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