Estimated reading time — 5 minutes
There once was a girl sitting on her sofa, reading a book by the tableside lamp like any young girl might do. Above her hung an bloodstained old woman on the ceiling, with grotesquely rotating limbs as she slobbered and gasped like a dying fish. But the girl paid her no attention. The woman was nothing but grey and red splotches of skin stretched over a skeletal frame, with her elbows and knees bent backwards like a spider clinging to the rafters, her eyes grown over with cataracts as they stared at the girl without seeing, and her decrepit face contorted into a silent scream. She darted around wildly in a disjointed fashion, and finally the girl glanced up toward the ceiling and saw the demonic creature there. But the girl only shook her head and looked away.
This girl was a special girl- she had something called hypnogogia. She wasn’t mentally ill, and science and doctors told her that what she saw wasn’t really there. The girl lived in a sort of fantasy- that is to say, she dreamed while she was still awake. This made her quite different from most other people, but what she had wasn’t rare, just… MORE than most. Have you ever woken up and couldn’t move, but you thought you saw something menacing standing by your bedside, or creatures whispering around you? That wasn’t a demon or an alien; it was sleep paralysis, and your body did it between when you slept and when you woke. This was the world that the girl inhabited.
The girl didn’t believe in magic things or spirits. She read lots of books and all of them told her that the people she saw, sometimes just out the corner of her eye, other times full-on and even staring her down- these people weren’t real, and they hadn’t lived some life before or came to her for a purpose or something. It was just a trick in the girl’s brain, and she reminded herself of that. There were all sorts of people she would see in visions- sometimes modernly dressed, sometimes looking old-fashioned, and while most of them were strangers, some of them she knew. But like any dream, they were illusory and quick to disappear- at least at first.
Yet after a while, the things the girl saw began to… stay around longer and longer. They started to appear as though they were, “attached” to other people, one might say, like the girl’s loved ones. First she noticed at her sister’s house that when her sister spoke at the dinner table there was a small, hunched figure sat upon her shoulder, its face hid behind a long beaky mask like the kind a plague doctor used to wear. Her sister wasn’t always nice to her, and she saw that when the bird looking creature leaned in and whispered into her sister’s ear, she would spit out something nasty, like it was feeding the words to her. Of course the girl was frightened, but she didn’t want to freak her family out and so she stayed silent… in time, she would get used to people and the creatures that came along with them.
In her mind, she knew that there was a logic to these entities. Like anything a psychologist would tell you- there was a reason for them being there and the way they were, and who they seemed to be stuck to, just like there was a reason for what we see in dreams. For instance, her father was a smoker for 40 years, and she would see him being followed by a wheezing, sickly thing with bloated lungs- this just signified her worry about his health, and that one day his cigarettes might get the better of him. Or the giant faceless man, cackling with laughter, that trailed her boss at the supermarket where the girl worked. The boss was always one to shout and then chuckle at his employees to embarrass them, so it only seemed fitting that his “creature” should be a brutish, monstrous looking thug.
More and more now the girl could look at any person and see what she called, “their monster.” She was unnerved to the point of trembling as she cashed out an impatient woman at the grocery store one day, watching a gaggle of slithering, growling grey beasts bounce around her feet with agonized cries like those of children. The girl had only had a couple closed loved ones ask her what “theirs” looked like… and afterward, they probably wish they hadn’t. It didn’t matter where the girl went. It could be at home, or at a friend’s house or the airport- the ugly, nasty things trailed each and every human she came across.
And then there were the worst ones of all, the truly bizarre and grotesque ones that could be called “demons” even if the girl didn’t believe in them- these ones would always go about on the ceiling, like it was their own personal world. They might be big, nasty black hog creatures snorting and sniffling until they opened their toothy maws and let out a raspy scream… or grey-blue child cadavers giggling and crawling around upside down just above the girl’s head, taunting her with bloated little faces and wagging black tongues. Soon the girl learned it was best simply to keep her eyes down upon the floor, for fear of what she might see dangling just above.
The girl grew older and she learned to cope, and lead the very best life she could. She was honest with her doctors and her family and they knew about her struggles, but she was still resolute in the fact that nothing in these waking dreams was real or could hurt her. There was one thing, though, that the girl never told anyone. Not a single soul would ever learn of her deepest and darkest fear, the one she learned she could contain most easily once she lived in her own home, away from the rest of the world. The one that chilled her to the bone in a way that the ceiling creatures never could.
The girl turned off the showerhead and stepped out onto the bathroom carpet, eyelids shut to shield against the mop of dripping brown hair. She fumbled around blindly for a towel and even as she did, unwittingly stood beneath a nest of slithering bloody white entities, humanoid yet so foreign from anything the girl had ever seen, and they scattered like cockroaches to the fair corners of the ceiling when she wiped away the water and opened her eyes, wrapping the towel around herself and shivering in uncertainty.
She took the brush and as best she could began to tease out her long wavy hair, her gaze avoiding any shiny reflection that she might unintentionally catch off the shower’s sliding glass door. She struggled to dry off and then get her clothing just so, to make herself presentable, standing in front of a wall bare save for the single nail that once held up her mirror, now lying on the floor under a dirty old sheet like all the rest of them. It wasn’t that the girl had never seen HER monster. Her terrifying secret was that she had, and so she had promised herself that she would never look upon her own face again, lest that… that THING resurface in her eyes.
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