03 Jun Nightmarish Realities
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"Nightmarish Realities"Written by Akila Thumbiran
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Estimated reading time — 13 minutes
I ran as fast as I could. My heart was racing and I could feel my side cramping up. Don’t look behind. I told myself. And so I kept running. I could hear movement behind me. Faster and faster until I felt excruciating pain on my ankle. I screamed and fell on the ground, allowing me to be face to face with my enemy. A python. It looked at me almost as if it knew me. And I stared right back. I could feel it’s hatred. I’ve done nothing to you. I said in my mind. The snake shook its head and moved behind me. I felt paralyzed. As the snake made its way around me, it hissed in my ear. Almost as if to say that I deserved this. Maybe it was right. The snake kept circling me and I let it happen. My muscles tensed up but I didn’t move. I stayed still. The fear almost felt good. I heard something snap and I screamed in pain. The python was now completely around me. I could feel it’s mouth on top of my head. So I closed my eyes and waited. The feeling of numbness came over me. And right as I saw my life flash before my eyes, I woke up.
I sat up and groaned. My ribs were still in pain and my ankle stung. It felt so real. But I couldn’t worry about that anymore. I had to go to class. I sat up in bed and winced at the pain. It’s all in your head, I told myself. So I proceeded to get ready, trying everything to distract myself from that dream. As I was brushing my teeth, I noticed blood on the ground. A little trail of blood from the bed to where I was currently standing. I lifted up my pants, revealing two small holes next to each other on the back of my ankle. A bite. I grabbed a tissue to soak up the remaining blood and then finished get ready.
“Nat!” I screamed as I rushed down to meet my roommate.
“What’s up?” she asked, unphased. I pretty much run into her room screaming about three times a week on a good week.
“Look at this.” I placed my foot on her bed and turned to show her the bite.
“What happened?” she asked.
“It’s a snake bite, I think,” I replied.
“A snake? In our house?”
“No, from my dream. I had a dream this snake was chasing me and bit me here. Then when I woke up I found this bite on me!” I explained.
“You were probably bitten by a bug or something in your sleep and had it translate to your dream.”
“Then why does it look like a snake bite?!”
“I don’t know. But I know it can’t be a snake bite. That’s crazy.”
I couldn’t argue anymore. I had no explanation.
“I still think it’s a bite, though. Just clean it and watch it to make sure it doesn’t get infected. You’ll be fine.”
I nodded and went back upstairs to get my things.
So I went on with my day. It was just like any other day. I went to class. Did homework.
Ate lunch. It was even less eventful than a regular day.
As I was walking to my car after my last class, I saw my roommate and best friend, Nat, in the window of the study room, so I went in to waste some time.
“Hey are you feeling better?” she asked.
“Almost completely,” I assured her.
“Are you sure? You were really shaken up this morning. It was kind of scary.” I took in a deep breath and sighed.
“I’m sorry.” I told her, “I’m really trying-”
“I know. It’s not your fault. I just don’t know how to calm you down anymore.”
“I know. I’ll work on it. I think right now all I need to do is take a nap. That’ll help,” I said.
“I think so. I’ll see you later,” she said as I walked away.
Maybe it was me. Maybe I caused that “bite” on my ankle that morning. It wouldn’t surprise me.
This thought kept coming back into my head over and over again as I drove home. Once I arrived home, I sat in my car and screamed. I’m crazy. That’s it. The verdict is out.
The door from the garage leads to Nat’s bedroom, so I opened the door without knocking.
But then I see Nat at her desk.
“Sasha! Back so soon?” she asked. This was not Nat. Nat doesn’t talk like that.
“Yeah, thought I needed a break, so I came home to take a nap. I told you that,” I said, trying to figure out what the hell was happening.
“Oh, I must have forgotten,” she said. She was almost too cheery. Too cheery for Nat at least. “How was your day? How’s the bite?” she smirked.
“My day was fine. Nothing out of the ordinary,” till now I thought, “The bite is fine too. I overreacted this morning.”
“You think? It looked pretty bad when I saw it.”
“Well, it’s fine now,” I insisted.
“Do you think you did it to yourself? We both know how you can get,” she said in almost a sing-songy voice.
“It’s a possibility.”
“A big possibility.” God, I wished I could wipe that smirk right off of her face.
“I’m going to go upstairs,” I said before dashing up to my room.
I couldn’t sleep. How could I? There was a girl downstairs, in my house, impersonating my best friend. Unless the one I saw at school was the fake Nat. Or maybe it’s all in my head. I wanted to scream, but I didn’t want the girl to hear me, so I screamed into a pillow.
I went to the bathroom to wash my face and maybe feel some sort of relief. But when I looked up with water streaming down my face, I saw words in the mirror behind me:
You will pay.
Written in red lipstick.
I wiped my face and stared at the words for some time. Did I do this? No. I would have remembered. When I got out of the bathroom, I saw Nat at the center of the room.
“Did you do that?!” I screamed at her.
“What are you talking about?” she asked.
“This!” I opened the bathroom door to reveal the mysterious words.
“You should have known word would get out. People can’t get away with anything these days,” she said.
“So you did this?” I asked again.
“Your best friend? No,” she said.
“I can’t be here right now,” I said decisively. “I’m going to school to do homework or something.”
I grabbed my things and rushed out as fast as possible.
“Good luck,” I heard Nat say behind me.
Who can I trust? That interaction was weird. When I got to school, I stuck to myself. I studied by myself. Ate dinner by myself. Read by myself. Basically, anything to prolong going home. But I couldn’t keep prolonging the inevitable. So I called Nat.
“Hello?” she said.
“Hey, are you home?” I asked.
“No, still on campus. Are you?”
“Yes, can you meet me here?”
A few minutes later she came by. I examined her, trying to figure out if this was the girl
I’ve known for three years.
“I’m still shaken up from the bathroom incident,” I told her.
“You know, the lipstick on the mirror.”
“Lipstick on the mirror? What are you talking about?”
“After I talked to you today, I went home. And when I went home, I saw you in your room.”
“I was in class at that point,” she assured me.
“Sasha, I really think you should see someone.” I groaned. I was so sick of her suggesting this. I was fine!
“I swear! When we go home, I’ll show you the words on the mirror!” I took her hand and dragged her to my car to go home.
“Sasha stopping pulling so hard, it hurts!” I lightened up but kept on dragging her behind.
Once we got home, I ran up to my room, making sure that Nat was following me. I rushed into the bathroom, opened the door, and it wasn’t there anymore.
“I swear to God, Nat. It was here,” I told her.
“I believe that you saw it. But maybe it wasn’t here,” she said, a look of fear once again on her face.
Tears of frustration ran down my face, “I’m not crazy Nat, it was here.”
“Sasha, I don’t know what to do. I think maybe you need to sleep and calm down before we discuss what to do about this,” she suggested.
I didn’t know what else to do so I agreed.
* * * * * *
“I’m scared to go on this trip,” I told my friend Kevin. “I don’t know what’s going on. My emotions have been all over the place. I feel like I can’t control what I say and what I do. And they hate that about me. They hate me.”
Kevin looked straight ahead. The sun was coming out. It must have been five, maybe six in the morning. We talked all night. Me for fun, him because he was a resident adviser on duty and had to be awake. But I considered him a friend.
“I doubt they hate you,” he finally said.
“I say whatever’s on my mind. I’m rude. I’m annoying. I try not to be, but it just comes out,” I told him.
“Do they know you feel like this?” he asked.
“No. But I’m not telling you this to take pity on me, I want your help. I’m so scared to leave this country with a bunch of people who have the wrong idea about me. When we get there, I need your help,” I begged him.
“I’ll help you, don’t worry.”
I woke up with the feeling of something on my arm. I jumped straight out of bed when I saw the eight-legged monster that decided to crawl up my arm. I killed the creature and then started to get ready. As I brushed my teeth, I thought about Kevin. The Kevin from my dream at least. A tear dripped down my cheek, and then another, until I was bawling. But it was a new day. A Saturday. It was homecoming at my university and I couldn’t wait to leave this house and feel normal, or as close to normal as possible.
The day dragged on pretty slowly until it was time to leave. I gathered my things finally and went out the door with a few of my friends. But I kept quiet. I had nothing to say. Well, I did, but I didn’t want to ruin the mood.
The campus looked surprisingly good. Food vendors, fairy lights, carnival games, and to top it all off, a beautiful full moon. There were so many people that my friends and I had to park on the other end of campus.
I got out of the car and followed my friends to the excitement. Until I dropped my phone.
They didn’t notice and continued ahead. I picked it up and saw the cracked screen. I tried to turn it on, but it wouldn’t. Of course. I heard a rustle to the side. It was then I realized I was alone on this path. It was probably a raccoon, I thought. The rustle was followed with footsteps. Footsteps coming towards me. I started walking again. Walking fast. Turned out it was just two guys walking to the festival as well. They passed me and I sighed with relief. I turned to start walking again, but was met with two eyes in the shadows, off the path. The figure had white makeup on, with a huge red smile drawn on him. We just looked at each other, neither one of us saying a word. So I speed-walked away, wishing that my friend didn’t park so far away from the festival. I heard footsteps behind me. I didn’t want to look behind, but after a little bit, I felt compelled to do so. It was the clown. I started walking faster, but so did he. I started running, I felt ridiculous until I realized that he was running too. I looked behind and saw Kevin’s face. Kevin? I didn’t let that slow me down, though. I ran as fast as I could until I saw the festival yet again. I looked behind me once again and he was gone. I took my phone out and saw that it was still broken and most likely never going to turn on again.
I found my friends and hugged Nat.
“Where were you? We tried calling,” one of them said.
“I dropped my phone and broke it on my way here. Also, I know this is going to sound crazy, but on my way over here, I saw a clown and it ran after me!”
“He was probably just coming over here, there are a few clowns here,” Nat said, pointing to a few clowns around. There was a circus theme that year.
“Lovely,” I mumbled. I hated clowns. I looked around more and my eyes fell on a specific clown. The one that chased me. Kevin.
“Nat, that clown looks like Kevin,” I said.
She looked at him as well and shook her head.
“That looks nothing like Kevin,” she replied.
“Sasha he doesn’t look like Kevin! It’s in your head! I get it, thinking of Kevin traumatizes you and that’s why you’re seeing him right now. It’s all in your head,” she said. I nodded. We walked back towards our friends. As we did, I looked back one more time and Nat was right. The clown that looked like Kevin had transformed into another person. It was all in my head.
I tried to keep going. To be normal with my friends. But no ride, no game, no food, could make me feel better. Something was off. I could feel someone watching me.
I followed the feeling and I saw Kevin, dressed as a clown, entering the closest building to the festival.
“I’m going to use the bathroom,” I said to my friends as I drifted off into the direction I saw Kevin.
Nat pulled my arm before I could go further, “Are you okay to go by yourself, or do you want me to come?” she asked.
“I’m fine on my own,” I assured her.
She looked worried and scared.
“I’m fine,” I repeated.
So she let go.
I walked slowly to the building. Ready to finally face what I had feared the most. I saw Kevin at the end of the first hallway with his back towards me. He wasn’t dressed as a clown anymore. As I walked towards him, he walked away, leading me somewhere. To a classroom.
“How are you here?” I asked. He ignored me. “I’m going crazy, aren’t I? You’re in my head.”
The lights flickered and turned off.
“Maybe,” he finally said. I closed my eyes and rubbed my forehead, trying to get him out of there. I thought about the snake, the clone, the lipstick, the spider, the clown.
“It was all you,” I realized.
“I’m sorry,” I said.
“Yes! It was an accident!” I told him.
And then suddenly the scene changed. It was bright again and we were not in a classroom. I looked to my left and saw a familiar sofa. I was at his apartment. Kevin was sitting down at the kitchen table looking ahead. I followed his gaze to find myself screaming at him.
“I asked for your help! I told you I needed you and you betrayed me! You laughed at me! You abandoned me! You let them tear me apart!”
“It’s not about you Sasha! We all went abroad to have fun. I didn’t have to take care of you!” he retorted.
“And you didn’t have to betray me either. You don’t understand what I went through. You can’t. I was alone in a foreign country. Trying my hardest to fit in. But I only stood out more. I asked you for help and you did nothing!” I was crying. This was ridiculous. I was so mad over this? This is why I did what I did?
I watched my past self fall to the ground crying.
“Stop it, Kevin,” I said. “Bring me back to the classroom.”
“Not yet,” he said. I closed my eyes, not wanting to relive what happened next.
The past me screamed, out of sadness and frustration.
“I hate you,” she said, “You’re a bad person.”
“I don’t owe you anything,” he said. The past me got up and marched to the kitchen counter. She pulled a knife out. “Sasha put that down!”
“You betrayed me! You promised me I’d be okay!”
“Sasha, please put that down.” Kevin ran towards me to take the knife out of my hand and that’s when it happened. I held the knife sideways and slid it across his throat. He fell immediately.
And then we were back in the classroom.
“I’m so sorry,” I said again. “I told you. At the time I couldn’t control what I was thinking, how I was acting. I’m better now.”
“I don’t know.”
* * * * * *
“You gave me facts. That’s not going to help your case, Sasha. You need to tell me how you were feeling,” my lawyer said.
“I was mad. I was embarrassed. I was sad. I know I’m a lot. I’m loud, I’m opinionated, I’m open. But it was hard to swallow that I was that terrible to be around, that I deserved to be ostracized,” I paused. Every time I talked about it, I got angry. I wanted to go up to the eight other people in my study abroad group and yell at them. To tell them that they were wrong about me. I wanted to make them pay for what they put me through.
“I’m sorry they made you feel like that.”
“Yeah, me too. I didn’t deserve that. What they did will haunt me for the rest of my life. And that’s why I killed one of them. To send a message. To show them that their words and actions have consequences. To show them, that could be next.”
“When we go on trial you can’t say things like that, Sasha. That’ll only make your sentence worse. You have to work with me.”
“I’m sorry. I just get so angry whenever I think about that time. It’s been three years since we went to London and I’m still haunted by it!”
“I know. I’m trying my best to understand. But for right now, I need to write your case. So tell me exactly how you were feeling that night.”
I took a deep breath and tried to think of every detail I could remember.
“This was before I started taking my meds. That will for sure help your case. As for that night, I had been texting Kevin a lot. I felt like if I didn’t tell him or anyone else on that trip how I felt, I’d explode.
I also talked to another guy often, Ben. He was on the trip as well and he despised me. Even more than Kevin. But that didn’t hurt as much. Kevin was supposed to be my friend. He knew my mental health wasn’t okay and that I’ve been seeing a therapist and physiatrist to help figure out what was wrong and to give me proper treatment. So I asked Kevin for his help. I was on a new medication, antidepressants. That will also help your case. Antidepressants, when taken by someone with bipolar disorder, make their mania worse. And I can definitely attest to that.
So I went to Kevin’s place out of the blue. I didn’t even tell him when I was on my way. I just knocked on his door and unfortunately for him, he was home. He invited me in and I was already crying. And then I yelled at him for treating me badly. I wanted him to feel bad, but he didn’t. He didn’t care. He only thought about himself. I wanted him to feel the pain I felt. So that’s when I grabbed the knife off of his counter. I wanted to hurt him.
He was scared. He was the resident advisor for the floor below me and told me that I was on a special watch by my resident advisor. I was known as a risk, a loose cannon.
Honestly, I didn’t think I’d actually hurt him. But I was mad and sad and emotional. I wanted to hurt him. And then, without thinking, as he tried to take the knife away from me, I slit his throat.”
The lawyer started typing things into his computer.
“Are you scared of me?” I asked.
“No, you don’t have to worry about me being scared of you.”
I was disappointed.
“I like when people are scared of me. I’ve spent the majority of my life in fear of others. I like having the power to invoke that feeling in them.”
“You’re going to therapy right?” he asked. I nodded.
“It doesn’t help though. In order to get better, you have to want to get better. I don’t. I don’t regret anything.”
“But what about your friends and family?”
“As I said, I lived most of my life in fear. I don’t have that in here. My family has already visited me a lot and two of my friends have come to hang out and update me about the world. I’m going to hate it here soon, I know. But it had to happen. I had to make this statement. I had to let those people from London know how I feel.”
Credit: Akila Thumbiran
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