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The Man with the Woolly Face

man wooley face


Estimated reading time — 22 minutes

I want to tell you the story of a bizarre thing that happened to me five years ago. It was what you might call a life changing experience, a metaphorical kick in the balls that put me on the straight and narrow after years spent in a vicious cycle of self-destructive behaviour. What happened to me on that fateful night defies any rational explanation, and so the only conclusion I can make is that I experienced a paranormal event.

I cannot say whether it was divine intervention or a message from beyond the grave. These are questions for cleverer men than me. And of course, many people will claim it was all in my head – that I suffered a drug fueled delusion or a psychological breakdown of some variety. That’s what the doctors reckoned anyway. But they’re wrong.

What happened to me that night was real. I can’t explain it, but I was somehow transported to another place…a separate plane of existence where the rules of mortal men do not apply. What I went through was both terrifying and enlightening. I was forced to face up to my many sins, and rightly so…But I was also offered the chance at redemption.

This was an opportunity I eagerly grabbed with both hands – not only because I wanted to become a better person, but also since I was made to understand the consequences of my actions, realising how I needed to change my ways before it was too late.

Before I recount the events of that night, let me tell you a little about myself. I had what you might call a troubled childhood. I was born in Belfast, growing up in a run-down housing estate on the outskirts of the town. My mother was an alcoholic and went through a series of abusive partners over the years. From a young age I was neglected and abused, and so I soon realised I needed to fend for myself.

Without any positive role models in my life and with little hope for the future, I soon went down a destructive path. I caused mayhem in school, getting into fights and playing truant until I eventually got expelled. I began a life of petty crime early on, starting with shop lifting and minor vandalism, and graduating to break ins and joy riding in my teens. And throughout all this I was abusing alcohol and drugs. I guess I inherited my mother’s addictive personality, or maybe I just wanted to dull the pain.

I would like to say I fell in with a bad crowd – but, the truth is, I was the worst of the lot. By the time I turned 16 I was an unholy terror on my estate, so much so that I came to the attention of the local hard men.

Now, let me explain something about the community I grew up in. Where I come from, we don’t have much time for the police and the courts. There are historical and political reasons for this that I won’t go into here, but suffice to say this mistrust of the authorities is a lasting legacy of the Troubles.

The estate I grew up on isn’t exactly a ‘no go’ area for the police, but they only come down here in heavily armoured convoys, and never receive a warm welcome. Likewise, in my community, anyone who co-operates with the police is a ‘tout’, or informer, and that’s not a label you want attached to you. Believe me.

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So, in the absence of any official police force on the ground, you might assume these areas are completely lawless. Well, that’s not strictly true. As is so often the case in such situations, the power vacuum is filled by ‘tough’ men with guns; self-appointed vigilantes who dish out their own form of rough justice. We call these men paramilitaries, and they are still very much active in my homeland. There are also unwritten rules in our communities, a kind of shadow system which runs in parallel to the official legal framework.

Let’s just say you’re a young hoodlum like I was back in the day, and your nefarious activities come to the attention of the local paramilitary organisation. Well, if your offence is relatively minor, you might expect to receive a verbal warning in the first instance. If you cause trouble on the estate, you can expect a visit from the men with the woolly faces (so called because they wear balaclavas to conceal their identities).

Now, you can imagine being a teenage lad getting threatened by big men with masks and guns. That’s going to be enough to scare the shit out of your average kid. But sometimes the message doesn’t get through, and the next step is a punishment beating, usually administered with a baseball bat or hurling stick down some back alley.

I’m one of those idiots that didn’t heed the first warning and got a beating as a result. It was a terrifying and excruciating experience that left me with a broken arm and several cracked ribs. I spent a few weeks in recovery but was soon back to my old tricks. I guess I’m a slow learner. Still, I was more careful after the beating and managed to stay under the radar, for a time at least.

Punishment beatings don’t always work, and so the paramilitaries will often escalate their violence to the next level. That’s a kneecapping. Imagine holding a kid down on the pavement and putting a bullet through both of their legs. Well, that’s a common occurrence in my home town. Needless to say, getting shot through both kneecaps will cause you serious injuries, but the majority of victims will walk again, after a lengthy period of medical care and rehabilitation.

There are exceptions of course. I remember hearing of one incident where the gunmen couldn’t find a pistol and so used a shotgun, blowing the victim’s leg off in the process. On another occasion, the bullet hit a victim’s main artery, and the poor fellow bled to death before the ambulance arrived. Still, these attacks are meant to be non-fatal.


Which brings me to the final escalation – the nut job, a bullet through the head. Outright killing doesn’t happen as often as it used to. Murder investigations are a big deal, and it’s a hard enough crime to get away with. Also, only a crazy bastard would keep fucking around after they’ve been shot through both legs.

You might expect the community to be revolted by such brutal attacks. Well – some are – but others support punishment attacks, or at least are willing to justify such actions. There’s a saying where I come from, that goes – ‘They didn’t get shot for nothing’.

There is after all a certain attraction to this brutal and swift from of vigilante justice that satisfies a primal urge for violent retribution against those who’ve wronged us.

As for me, I have some perspective on this situation now, but during my teenage years I was wild and out of control. I hated myself and held nothing but contempt for the world around me, being determined to go down the road of self-destruction, and I didn’t care who I hurt along the way.

My worst moment came one summer’s night shortly after my 18th birthday. I was high on drugs and in the mood to cause some mayhem. I was seeing a girl at the time – her name was Zoe. I won’t claim she was the love of my life. That would be dishonest. Nevertheless, we had a connection – it wasn’t just about the fucking and the drugs.
Zoe had a similar upbringing to my own – being abused as a young girl and subsequently filled with an uncontrollable rage against the world. We both had a passion for rebellion and mayhem, pushing each other to new extremes during our shared path to self-destruction. I guess there was only one way it was going to turn out.

I’ll never forget the events of that night, when Zoe and I got fucked up on coke and vodka and had the great idea of stealing a car. We sneaked through a posh area of town and broke into a fancy BMW, taking it on a joy ride through the city centre.

I was driving, tearing through the city streets at high speed while off my head on a deadly cocktail of drink and drugs. You can probably guess what happened next. There was a sudden turn in the road. I was going too fast, and my reaction times were impaired, so I couldn’t make the turn in time.

I remember it seemed like the whole world went by in slow motion, as the car hit the curb with force and went flying. Zoe screamed out in terror. Clearly, she was afraid. Despite her reckless lifestyle, she did not want to die.
What happened next was something of a blur. What I know is that the air bag on the driver’s side deployed, and this is what saved my life. But Zoe wasn’t so lucky. She wasn’t wearing a seat belt and so got hurled forwards through the windscreen. Her helpless body flew through the air like a lifeless rag doll, and she hit the tarmac hard and head first, her neck snapping like a matchstick.

I crawled from the wreckage in a daze to survey the bloody carnage before me. I knew Zoe was dead as soon as I set eyes upon her twisted and broken body. I wanted to run to her side, to cradle her in my arms and whisper in her ear how sorry I was. But, in that moment, I heard sirens in the distance, quickly coming ever closer. And I ran away like a coward – leaving my girlfriend’s shattered corpse on the roadside.

Somehow, the police never got me for this heinous crime. I was brought in and questioned, but they couldn’t place me at the scene or prove that I was driving the stolen car, and so I was never convicted. That’s not to say I got off scot-free, however. People in my local community knew I was responsible, and so I was treated like a hated pariah.
I didn’t dare attend Zoe’s funeral, and afterwards her grieving father came after me with a hatchet he was determined to bury in my skull. I barely escaped with my life and soon fled the estate in fear of further reprisals, squatting in an empty flat on the other side of the city. I was isolated and filled with guilt over my role in Zoe’s death, and so I became even more withdrawn, consuming increasingly dangerous amounts of drink and drugs in an attempt to dull the pain.

I’d hit rock bottom and there was only one way it would all end if I continued down this path. And then, after a heavy night in which I downed a lethal combination of vodka and pills, I experienced the unexplainable event that saved my life.

The night preceding the event was something of a blur, but I’d been drinking until at least 3 in the morning before I crashed out on the sofa. I awoke several hours later with a stinking headache and my mouth tasting of vomit. Not unreasonably, I expected it to be morning, and yet it was still dark, with barely a ray of sunlight coming through the thin lace curtains of my dilapidated little bedsit.

I checked my watch but found it had stopped. Likewise, my mobile phone was totally dead. I cursed out loud in frustration. But to be honest, I couldn’t complain too much, as both items were stolen anyway.

With some difficulty I pulled myself up off the sofa and stumbled across the rubbish strewn floor, making my way to the window and sheepishly pulling back the curtain to reveal the view outside. I soon confirmed that it was still dark out, and clearly there was something very wrong with the view before me.

The sky above was almost entirely black, without even a single star visible. The only dim light came from the sun, which sat low on the eastern horizon. However, this was no normal sun. Instead of shining bright and emitting light and heat, the orb burned a pale white, producing only a weak illumination over the otherwise darkened landscape.
I’d never seen anything like this before and so wondered whether the planet was experiencing some kind of unique atmospheric event. But surely I would have heard something, if such an unique event was anticipated? The next thing I noticed was how there were no artificial lights anywhere on the horizon.

Now, I lived on a top floor flat and so had a pretty good view over the city, and so usually my evening view would be illuminated by the bright city lights, but now there was nothing. I thought it was possible there could be a mass power outage. However, it wasn’t just the electricity that was out. There were also no headlights to be seen – no traffic on the streets below me. In fact, there were no signs of life whatsoever. Not a living soul that I could see.

At this point, I imagined I was having a very vivid dream. I couldn’t think of any other logical explanation. I stumbled to the bathroom with the intention of splashing cold water over my face. But, to my immense frustration, I discovered that none of the taps were working, and not a drop of water was to be had.

I swore in anger as I stormed out of the bathroom and made my way to the small kitchen, where I found a half full bottle of water that I promptly emptied over my head before slapping myself hard across both cheeks, but all to no avail. I didn’t wake up, and so could only conclude that this wasn’t a dream.

I explored the rest of my small flat and soon discovered that nothing was working – the lights, the TV, and all the electrical devices were dead, and the heating was also off. But, despite the absence of central heating, I couldn’t help but notice how warm it was inside of the flat, with the temperature seeming to increase with every passing minute. Soon I was sweating profusely due to the inexplicable heat.

I rummaged through the kitchen drawers and found a couple of candles, which I lit and placed around the apartment to provide some illumination. By this point I was feeling very uneasy and more than a little frightened. Nevertheless, I decided to leave my flat to investigate, hoping that I could find somebody who knew what the hell was going on.

As soon as I opened the front door I was hit by another wave of intense heat, and my nostrils were filled with a terrible stench that reminded me of burning flesh. This didn’t bode well, but I forced myself to step out into the darkened corridors. I proceeded throughout the building, lighting my way with a cigarette lighter, shouting out and banging loudly on the doors of my neighbours. But no-one answered, and I found no signs of life.

The entire building appeared to be abandoned, as if all the residents had suddenly disappeared into thin air. It would be fair to say I was pretty frightened by this point. I had no idea what was going on, but I had a terrible feeling that ‘I wasn’t in Kansas anymore’.

I remember the worst thing about the situation was how I was all alone, cut off from the world and without help. I briefly considered widening my search and leaving the building to search for other survivors, but I didn’t much fancy wandering through the pitch-black streets alone, and so I returned to my flat and waited, hoping that eventually someone would come and find me.

The heat was stifling by this stage and my hangover hadn’t improved, and so I was soon worn out. Unable to keep my eyes open, I eventually lowered my head to the couch, closed my eyes, and fell back asleep.

I got rudely awoken some time later by a loud banging against the front door. I shot up from the sofa, rubbing my eyes as I quickly sought to regain my senses. For a brief moment I hoped that my earlier experiences had in fact been a vivid nightmare from which I had now awoken. However, once I surveyed my surroundings, I realised that nothing had changed. The world was still shrouded in darkness and the near unbearable heat was as stifling as ever.
The banging continued, getting louder and heavier. Whoever was on the other side of the door wanted in badly, banging his fist against the wooden frame so it shook on its hinges. He began screaming through the letterbox, speaking in a broad Belfast accent.

“Open this fucking door!” he shouted, “Open up, or I’ll break it down…so help me!”

I didn’t know whether to feel relieved or terrified. I had found another human being – or at least he’d found me – but the newcomer clearly wasn’t friendly, and it seemed like he wished to do me harm.

He continued to scream, thump and kick, and I realised it wouldn’t be long before the intruder broke through my flimsy front door. I replied frantically in an attempt to buy some time.

“All right! All fucking right!” I cried out, “Just give me a second!”

I rushed to the kitchen, grabbing the sharpest knife in my possession and hiding it in my waistband as I nervously approached the door. The intruder temporarily stopped banging and screaming, allowing me to approach the door and peek through the peep hole.

I set my eyes upon the angry interloper for the first time and was shocked by what I saw. He was a large man, although roughly my height and build. He wore a combat jacket and jeans, his face being covered by a woolen balaclava, with two crudely cut holes for his eyes…Oh, those fucking eyes! What can I say about them? They burnt a fierce red, appearing more demonic than human, and they were filled with hatred, a righteous anger about to be unleashed.

And the man had come prepared for his grisly task, armed with a chipped baseball bat he carried in his right hand, and with a silver-coloured revolver tucked into his waistband. I gasped in terror when I realised what this was.
The paramilitaries. The men with the woolly faces. They’d finally come for me, sending this dead-eyed enforcer to enact violent retribution for Zoe’s death, or for the dozens of other crimes I’d committed over the years. My time had finally come. But I still felt the defiance burning inside me, and I was determined not to go down without a fight.

The masked intruder stood back from the door and once again spoke angrily through clenched teeth.
“Open this fucking door you bastard!” he demanded.

I laughed nervously before responding. “You must be fucking joking mate! There’s no way…”

I didn’t get the chance to finish my sentence. The masked man charged, hitting the door with an enormous force. He smashed through the door, breaking it clean off its hinges. I was struck and knocked over, totally shocked by the immense strength the paramilitary gunman had exerted.

Reaching for my waistband, I grabbed the kitchen knife and tried to slash out at my attacker, but he was too fast for me. The baseball bat came down heavily against my hand. I head a sickening crack and suffered a shooting pain through my arm, forcing me to drop the knife.

I screamed out for mercy, but my attacker showed none. He struck out again with the bat, cracking my exposed ribs as I lay helpless. I was reminded of the brutal punishment attack I’d suffered years before, realising that history was repeating itself. All the resistance had been beaten out of me by this point, and I could only watch on helplessly as the masked man calmly stepped over me, before he roughly grabbed hold of my overgrown hair and physically dragged me across the floor.

I cried out in shock and pain, but my captor showed no sympathy, screaming at me to – “Shut the fuck up!”
I kicked and struggled but his strength was extraordinary, and I could do nothing to prevent my attacker from physically lifting my body and tossing me back onto the couch. I landed on my injured arm and squealed in agony. Shielding my broken hand, I turned and faced my captor, who calmly placed his bloodied bat on the coffee table before sitting on a hard wooden chair facing me, pulling the revolver from his waistband and aiming it straight at my head.

I froze in submission, staring into his demonic red eyes and experiencing a cold chill of terror pulsating through my body. I could not avert my gaze despite the intense fear I felt. I wondered whether this was really a man who sat before me, or was it something else? Something evil, with powers that a mere mortal such as myself could not possibly comprehend.

Surprisingly, the gunman eased up once he had invaded my home and violently subdued me. By now I’d been reduced to a submissive captive, completely at his mercy. I breathed heavily as he glared at me, covering me with his gun, and with his finger poised on the trigger. He did not speak, and several moments passed by in tense silence.

Eventually I managed to open my mouth and speak through my trembling lips.

“Who are you?” I muttered, “What do you want from me?”

The gunman snorted in a mocking manner before answering. His voice was deep and menacing.

“You know who I am, and why I’m here.” he answered.

I felt a cold chill of terror running up my spine as all the colour drained from my face. My worst fears had been realised. The gunman’s next action surprised me. He kept the revolver trained on me, but reached out with his other hand, grabbing a half empty bottle of vodka from the dining table and holding it aloft.

“Here mate.” he exclaimed, “You look like you could use a drink. Catch.”

He threw the glass bottle which I managed to catch with my uninjured hand. My captor was right. My broken hand was aching and I was scared shitless, so I certainly could use a drink. Nevertheless, I feared this could be a trick. I looked suspiciously towards my gun-wielding captor, and he nodded back at me, saying – “Go ahead mate.”

I unscrewed the top of the bottle and slowly raised it up to my dry lips. I took a large gulp, but there was something wrong. The alcohol tasted like poison in my mouth, and much worse than anything I’d ever ingested. I couldn’t swallow the vile liquid and so I spat it out, dropping the bottle as I did so.

“Fuck!” I swore in dismay.

The gunman laughed boisterously, his loud bellow filling up the room. “I guess you’ve had enough already mate!” he quipped.

I shook my head, trying to regain my senses. Just then, I heard a terrifying sound emanating from outside of the flat’s window, something similar to the roar of a lion or some other species of large predator. The roar continued for several seconds, the chilling noise making me jump up from the sofa and curse out loud.

“What the hell was that?” I cried fearfully.

“Sit the fuck down!” the gunman swore in a menacing tone.

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I looked into his glowing red eyes and down at the barrel of his gun and knew he was serious. I slowly sat back down on the couch, raising my hands defensively whilst doing so. Mercifully, the roaring sound had stopped, but I could still make no sense of what had just occurred.

“What was that?” I repeated.

“Don’t worry about it mate.” answered my captor, “You need to stay focused right now.”

I held my head in my hands, feeling as if the whole world had gone crazy.

“I don’t understand what’s going on…What the hell is happening out there?”

“I told you not to worry about it!” my captor answered angrily, “You are where you need to be, and you won’t be leaving here, not unless you persuade me.”

I didn’t know what he was talking about. His words made no sense to me, but the gun pointed at my head spoke volumes.

“You’ve come here to kill me?” I enquired through trembling lips.

“No, not exactly.” he answered. The gunman paused momentarily, as if carefully considering his next words. “Think of me more as a judge rather than an executioner. You’ve done a lot of nasty shit in your time, and fucked a lot of people over, not to mention wasting your own life in the process. Actions have consequences, and now you need to answer for your sins.”

I don’t know why, but I was angered by the gunman’s self-righteous speech and by the hypocrisy of his words.
“Who the fuck do you think you are?” I swore angrily, as I wiped the sweat from my forehead. “You break in here, smash my hand, hold me at gunpoint…And you have the cheek to call yourself a judge? You’re nothing but a brain-dead thug! Go ahead and shoot me if that’s what you’re planning, but don’t you fucking dare pretend you’re better than me!”

I soon regretted my angry outburst and fearfully awaited the gunman’s response. However, at that very moment, the roaring sound began once again, louder and closer this time. The roar was so fierce and visceral, conjuring images in my mind of a blood-thirsty predator roaming the dark streets whilst hunting for prey.

I looked at the gunman, my eyes wide with fear. My captor remained perfectly calm, speaking through his woolly balaclava and asking – “Would you rather answer to me, or take your chances out there, with him?”

It wasn’t much of a choice, but rather a case of ‘better the devil you know’. I took a series of deep breaths, lowered my head, and forced myself to ask the question.

“What are you going to do with me?” I asked nervously.

“That depends.” he answered, “I want to give you a fair hearing. You think this is a kangaroo court, but I like to do things properly. I’ll give you a chance to defend yourself…And I’ve even called in a witness to speak. One whom I’m sure you’ll remember…”

He nodded, motioning towards the open doorway. I turned my head to look and my heart almost stopped when I saw her. It was Zoe, back from the dead. Inexplicably, she was standing in my doorway and looking down upon me with eyes as black as the night. Her body was emaciated and her skin paler than the palest white, while her straggly hair hung loose over her face.

Zoe was grinning as she turned to face me, opening her mouth to reveal a gaping black hole.

“Boo!” she cried playfully.

I screamed out in terror, recoiling on the sofa in an attempt to get away from this ghoulish entity. Zoe – or whatever she now was – laughed cruelly in open mockery of my reaction.

“What’s the matter babe? Don’t you like my new look?”

I was horrified and speechless, unable to look into her dead eyes. Instead, I glanced back to my gun-wielding captor, seeking some kind of explanation.

“What the hell is she doing here?” I demanded.

The masked man shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly before answering – “She’s your witness…Or perhaps you are hers. Either way, I would suggest that now is an opportune moment for both of you to gain some closure.”

This was crazy, but it also made sense. For so long I had prayed for the chance to speak with Zoe one last time; to say how sorry I was and to seek her forgiveness. And now, somehow, I had been given that opportunity. But yet, in that moment, I couldn’t think of what to say to her.

The spirit of Zoe looked down upon me with her black lifeless eyes, glaring accusingly as she spoke in a disembodied voice.

“You let me die!” she screamed, “You left me on the tarmac like I was a piece of fucking garbage! And you never took responsibility for what you did…”

I was frozen, the guilt I carried with me for so long was overwhelming. What could I say in my defence? Whatever I came up with would surely be grossly inadequate, and so I simply said the first thing which came into my head.
“I’m so sorry Zoe,” I spluttered, “I never meant to hurt you.”

She snorted in disgust. “Ha! Because you treated me like a real princess, didn’t you? What was I to you? A fuck buddy? Some dumb bitch to score drugs with? Or just someone as fucked up as you are…another lost soul committed to mayhem and self-destruction?”

The latter was closest to the truth, but I didn’t try to answer her question. Instead, I provided a meek and wholly inadequate reply – “I’m sorry, I didn’t know what I was doing.”

Zoe laughed once again, her otherworldly voice filling up the room.

“Well, at least that’s the truth!” She paused for a moment, lowering her volume before speaking her next words in a more sympathetic tone. I swore I could see a glimmer of light in her otherwise dark eyes. “For a long time I hated you for what you did to me. I wanted you to suffer, like I have. But then I realised that it wasn’t your fault, not really. You were fucked up back then…still are, I guess. But so was I…If I hadn’t died in that crash, it would have been something else. Drink, drugs, a violent boyfriend…You treated me better than most. And I’ve finally found some peace where I am. I pray you’ll find the same one day…I forgive you babe. You can let go of your guilt…”

I was in tears by this point. Zoe’s words had such an impact upon me. I felt like a great weight had been lifted from my weary shoulders. I glanced back up at Zoe and found her appearance had changed. She was no longer the ghoul who’d confronted me, but had instead transformed back into the innocent girl I’d once known, complete with kind green eyes and a sweet smile.

I wiped my eyes to clear away the tears, before lifting my head to speak with Zoe, only to find she was gone, her spirit having seemingly disappeared into thin air.

I looked back at the gunman in shock and confusion. He merely shrugged his shoulders and said – “Well, that went better than expected.”

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I experienced a glimmer of hope, but my good fortune did not last long. I jumped up in my seat when I heard it. The animalistic roar, so loud and piercing. The creature – or whatever was producing this terrible sound – was close now. I reckoned it must be on the street right below my block of flats. I could hear it moving, thumping loudly as it beat a path along the tarmac. The whole building shook with each step it took.

I couldn’t imagine what type of horrifying monster was producing these blood chilling sounds, but somehow I knew it was coming for me. I believed this hideous creature would do unspeakable things to me, before it finally put me out of my misery. But I realised then that I did not want to die.

I experienced a primal terror as I looked to my gun-wielding captor, who ironically now offered my last chance at salvation. The masked man shook his head and sighed, lowering his handgun ever so slightly as he did so.
“I hoped we would have more time.” he said in a somber tone, “Well, I guess we’re going to have to bring this to a conclusion.”

We heard a smashing noise coming from the street below, followed by the sound of claws tearing at wood and plaster. The monster was breaking into the building. I could hardly breathe by this stage. My fear was all encompassing, and the heat inside of the flat was so intense that I feared I might pass out.

My vision was blurred as I watched my captor rise up from his chair, holding his revolver with one hand whilst using his other to slowly remove his mask and reveal his face for the first time during our encounter. I watched on, awestruck, as the balaclava was removed, and I recoiled in horror when I saw my own face staring back at me. True, his eyes were still red, although their brightness had dimmed ever so slightly, and all the blood was drained from his face, but otherwise he was my doppelganger – an exact double.

I don’t know why, but watching that mask being removed and seeing my own face staring back at me was the most terrifying thing I’d experienced thus far. My whole body shook as I forced myself to speak – “What…what are you?”
My doppelganger laughed in a mocking fashion before replying.

“Well, I’m you mate! I’ve always been you. Who else would kick the living shite out of you? Who else would know your deepest, darkest fears, and force you to suffer through them?”

As if on cue, I heard the sound of something huge tearing up the staircase. The beast was coming for me, and it wouldn’t be long before it reached my floor.

“Why?” my double demanded.

I stared back at him in confusion. “Why what?” I exclaimed in a panic.

“Why do you do this to yourself? To us? Why do you keep fucking up?”

I shook my head. My brain was racing. I could hear the monster’s low growl and the ruckus it caused as it smashed its way through the building. I knew we didn’t have much time.

I struggled to find the words, realising this was crucially important but finding myself unable to focus.
“…I don’t know…my mother…my stepfathers…all that shit! What chance did I have?”

“You have a choice!” my doppelganger screamed back, “You can change! But you must do it now, before it’s too late!”

I heard a thunderous bang, that of a huge body smashing through something heavy. This was followed by an almighty roar that nearly deafened me. I could smell the foul stench of raw flesh. The monster was here. It would be at my door in seconds.

I looked to my double, now realising he was the only one who could save me.

“Please!” I pleaded, “Please don’t let it take me!”

“I don’t want to.” he replied calmly, “But you’ve got to ask me.”

“What?” I cried.

The monster had reached the doorway. I could feel its hungry, hate-filled eyes upon me, and I could smell its foul breath, but I didn’t dare look, instead focusing my gaze upon the entity standing before me.

“Ask me!” he screamed, “Ask me to set you free!”

I heard the monster creeping through the corridor, felt its hot breath against my skin. I was terrified, but I knew it was now or never.

“DO IT!” I screamed.

My doppelganger smiled ever so faintly, before raising his gun and pulling the trigger. I saw a bright flash, experienced a sharp searing pain. And then, everything went black.

I woke up to bright lights and excited conversation. Fighting through the pain and disorientation, I soon discovered that I was lying in a hospital bed with medical staff hovering over me.

It was some time later before I was told how I’d got there. One of my neighbours had discovered my front door smashed open that morning. Suspecting a burglary, he entered my flat and found me face down and unconscious on the floor, lying in a pool of my own vomit, with a bottle of vodka and half empty jar of pills by my side.

My neighbour called an ambulance, and the paramedics were able to resuscitate me and pump my stomach. They said I was only minutes away from death when they found me. In addition to the overdose, several bones in my hand had been broken, and one of my ribs was cracked. As for my memories of that evil place – well, the doctors claimed it was all in my head.

Nevertheless, neither they nor the police could explain how my front door had come to be kicked in, or how I’d injured my hand. They must have thought I was crazy however, as I got sent to a psychiatric hospital for treatment. This wasn’t the most pleasant of experiences, but in a way, it was the best thing for me, since I got sober and received counselling to help me come to terms with all I’d been through.

I’ve been on the straight and narrow ever since, achieving goals I never would have previously thought possible. I’m determined I’ll never return to being the reckless and self-destructive person I once was.

I don’t know what exactly happened to me on that night, or who (or what) saved my life. I do know that I’m very lucky to be here, and I remind myself of this fact every day.

And so, what advice would I give to someone in a similar position? What would I say to a kid going down the same path of self-destruction as I once did? I’d tell them that it’s not too late to change, and to turn your life around.
Because – believe me – you don’t want to go through what I did. Don’t wait for that knock on the door from the man with the woolly face. I was lucky, but you may not be…

Credit : Finn MacCool

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