Night Terrors

The newscaster announced it was now time for the ten o’ clock news and a series of graphics flashed across his screen. He had to be up at 5:30am, he was exhausted, the logical course of action was to turn off the tv and go to bed. He sat there for a few more minutes, trying to combat the dread that was threatening to bubble up inside. Every night it was the same, he would have to force himself to walk to his room, shut off the light and lay down. It seemed pointless, he wasn’t going to sleep, but staying out in the living room watching late night tv didn’t make him feel any more rested when his alarm went off in the morning. All of his life he had struggled with insomnia. As a child his parents thought he was being difficult. They couldn’t understand, and he couldn’t explain, why it was he simply couldn’t fall asleep until the rays of morning light began to shine through his window. As a result of cycles of little sleep he had struggled through school and failed to learn normal social behavior. He was prescribed sleep aids by a doctor, but they didn’t work. He exhausted himself and tried all suggestions to find sleep at night, but it seemed that when “the cycle” started he would just have to deal with months of zero REM. After almost a year of peaceful slumber, the knowledge that he was in for numerous nights of laying there with his thoughts was almost more than he could bear.

Perhaps it was because he had spent the last year resting up, but the first week of insomnia hit him harder than normal. He started slipping at work, wasn’t sure how he made it to his destinations when he drove anywhere and his inability to remember simple things reached a new high. Three weeks into “the cycle’ the first hallucination happened. He was laying in the dark trying to count backwards from 1000 when he noticed movement out of the corner of his eyes. He chalked it up to shadows from the street light outside and resumed his count. All of a sudden he couldn’t concentrate on counting, his mind started to wander and latch onto topics that inspired anxiety and fear. He desperately tried to divert his thoughts and calm down, but his heart was racing, his palms were sweating…he was as wide awake as one can be. He wanted to cry. His body was screaming that it was tired, but his mind would not allow rest. Again he thought he noticed movement on his ceiling but was too distracted to really register the observation. He got up and walked out to the living room couch. Almost as soon as he laid down on it he felt his eyes growing heavy. His relief was enormous, he pulled himself up and padded towards the bedroom again. Unfortunately, when his head hit the pillow he was awake again. Instantly he felt despair well up in him and the anxiety soon joined in until he was once again filled with a mixture of stressful feelings. As he laid there, thinking about all the pressure of life, he began to pick up an odd sound above him, not quite a slither, or a rustle, but perhaps a soft suckling sound coming from the ceiling. He closed his eyes and tried to calm himself down. I am imagining things he told himself, there is nothing on the ceiling, no sounds, no movement. He was about to open his eyes again when he was struck with a certainty that if he looked up he would see something terrifying. His mind’s eye showed him a preview of a creature that was black and dripping silvery smokey wisps from its upside down mushroom-shaped body. It was hanging from the ceiling by a large root, with smaller thinner root strands clinging to the nooks and crannies of his orange peel texture. With trepidation he opened his eyes and looked up…nothing was there.

Over the next week his anxiety grew with each passing night, soon his eyes couldn’t close without seeing those creatures swarming above him. He felt like he was going mad, plagued by monsters that disappeared as soon as he opened his eyes. Sleep was impossible, his life was starting to unravel at a rapid pace. By the fifth day he could no longer even pretend he was able to drive to work. He called in sick and decided he needed to get some professional help. After seeing his doctor he came home armed with a bottle of extremely powerful sleeping pills. He wasn’t going to wait till dark, he took two and headed towards his bed. As he lay there waiting for the pills to take effect, he thought he could once again sense movement above him. A soft rustling sound began to grow in his ears. He prayed that the pills would kick in soon. The rustling began to turn into the sound of something sucking air in, the sound of spongy material opening and closing over and over again. He looked up and thought he saw a shimmer all over his ceiling, could almost make out shadowy blobs hanging down all above him. Panic began to well up inside him, fighting against the fast acting Halcion in his system. As he felt himself starting to fade into the blackness of sleep the shimmering blobs began to solidify overhead, the last thing he saw before the pills overtook him was what looked like a colony made up of something that appeared to be a hybrid virus cell, mushroom, jellyfish concoction. Much more terrifying was his knowledge that its true form was far more horrifying and this was as close as his brain could process without going completely mad. Sleep chased away the terror and as he slept the creatures above him feasted on his energy. Soon they would have enough to transform into the next stage of their life. They had followed him all his life but while he was awake they could do little more than cause his subconscious to awake in fear and send waves of panic coursing through his system. When he was asleep they could suck up the electrical charges that made up his thoughts, dreams and soul. It had taken 27 long years, but they were finally reaching the end of their meal, with a final inhale the last of Eric Johnson was absorbed by the entities above him and in the dark a new demon was born.

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Remember

“Evil exists, it is very real and the wall between darkness and us has been growing thinner as we give in to greed, jealousy and selfish desires.” Erika whispered to her cousin Tim as they were sitting on the couch surrounded by their mingling family after a Sunday dinner. “You wouldn’t believe the stories I’ve uncovered working in the library digitizing all the old prints,” she continued. Tim rolled his eyes at her, Erika had been obsessed with magic and the occult since she was little and most of the family ignored her when she tried to engage them on the subject. Tim was the last one to still humor her, but even he had his limits and right then he was far more interested in watching the football game then listening to his older cousin spout on about ghosts or demons. Maybe he could get her to tell a story and he could tune her out and catch the next play. “Tell me what you found,” he whispered back, hoping she would take long enough to get through a quarter. Erika turned towards him and began her story and soon Tim forgot about the football game, forgot he didn’t believe in ghosts, he was too caught up in the words issuing from his cousin and the tinge of fear that was forming in the pit of his stomach.

“I first noticed a pattern when I was told to go through the old newspaper archives,” Erika began. “Every so often there would be a story that was similar, but with years in between and involving different families and places. Only over the course of a hundred and fifty years, with it laid out in front of you at once, would you notice it. At first they were just short obituary blurbs about people who drowned that were afraid of water. People who had fallen to their deaths who were afraid of heights. A couple had been killed by walking out in front of trains but had no history of depression or suicidal tendencies. Unexplained deaths, they happen more often than people think. Then the stories became longer, more detailed. There was a middle-aged couple who were found asphyxiated in their car. They had been active in the church and community, close with their children and had no financial or marital problems that anyone was aware of. It was a great mystery with no details to explain why they would sit in their car and let the carbon monoxide rob them of their life. The only common denominator was that the unexplained deaths were always of people who led decent lives and contributed in a positive manner to their community. As I counted up the growing number of deaths I noticed that in the weeks before or after there were public warnings to avoid interacting with noted strangers passing through the area. I became curious about these warnings, usually on the police blotter section of the papers. Occasionally there would be mention of children who had gone missing and even more strange, of children who didn’t seem to belong to anyone, pestering adults to help them but no one could figure out where they came from or where they stayed. I tried to rationalize that these were all normal occurrences but as the newspapers got newer the stories got more consistent. Starting in the sixties there was a weekly column that dealt with weird but true eye-witness accounts. One of the first stories was about a woman who swore that there had been a small child that appeared at her back door, begging her to let her in and that she was scared and needed help. The old woman didn’t recognize her from the neighborhood and there seemed to be something odd about the girl, a flatness to her that scared the woman enough that she refused the plea and said she would call the police to come help her instead. When the girl heard the old woman deny her request she backed away from the door and just stood there staring at the woman through the side window. After a moment she started to grin and as her lips parted the old woman noticed her teeth were blackened and rotting and all the old woman could think was that this little girl was dead inside, not human. The old woman hurried towards the kitchen and called the police, but when they showed up there was no sign of the little girl anywhere. Another story told of a couple out hiking and they saw three kids who appeared to be around 12 hovering over something in the middle of a side trail. As they approached the kids stood up and beckoned them to come over, but none of them spoke, just motioned with their hands. The couple started to veer towards them, but before they got too close another couple with three large dogs came around the bend distracting them for a moment. When the couple turned back towards the kids they had disappeared. They walked over to where the kids had been but there was no sign of them and the trail was dirt and still soft from a recent rain, but there were no tracks to show they had ever been there. A man who lived alone with his dog told of an experience he had where his dog had suddenly gotten very agitated and went to the front door barking furiously. He had looked out his window and didn’t see anyone. His dog continued to bark and growl at the door. He decided to go outside and figure out what was riling up his dog. When he opened his door there was a woman standing there, she mouthed the word help and held her hands out towards him. He instinctively reached out towards her but before he could grab her hand his dog rushed out and knocked him back. The dog got between him and the woman and started barking and growling at her. The man noticed the woman was glaring at the dog and thought he heard her hiss as she took a step back, he looked closer and as her lips pulled back her teeth were black, her skin too pale. He grabbed his dog by the collar and pulled it back inside, slamming his door and locking it behind him. He called the police, but once again, there was no sign of anyone when they came out to investigate. There were dozens of similar stories about encounters with these strangers of all ages and gender, all with the rotted teeth and disappearing without a trace when other people showed up. Individually these people were crazy, together they were a compelling story showcasing some type of entity who seemed intent on luring innocent people away from safety to do who knows what. After reading the newspapers I searched the internet to see if there were any accounts of these strangers in other cities and there are correlating stories dating back hundreds of years all over the world, some have black eyes, some black teeth, some talk, some just motion, but none of them are human and they do not appear to be nice. Whatever they are, I hope I never see them,” Erika concluded.

Tim nodded and mumbled an agreement, but inside all he could think about was the time he was playing outside one afternoon a couple of years ago and there had been another boy who had stepped out of the field across the street from his house. The boy wasn’t familiar and he just stood there, grinning at Tim, slowly waving his hand. Tim had stared back, unsure of what was happening, thinking in the back of his head that he might want to head back inside. He went to turn around and was surprised to discover that he was no longer in his yard, but was halfway across the street feet pointed in the direction of the field and the boy was much closer…close enough to notice there was something wrong with him. He had a maniacal look in his eyes and the sun didn’t seem to shine on him. Tim was gripped with a fear so deep he almost peed himself, he turned and ran for his house as fast as he could. He had locked the door behind him and had gone and sat by his mother for the rest of the night, trying to forget about his weird experience. He had never seen anything like it again, had in fact pushed it from his memory, but Erika’s story had brought it back as fresh as the day it happened.

Erika was still talking about her theory on how the wall between the living and dead was growing thinner because people were forgetting what they needed to do to keep the barrier strong when Tim’s dad came over and told him it was time to head home. Tim was relieved to be getting away from the topic of evil and muttered a quick goodbye to his cousin as he put his jacket on and followed his parents to the car. That night Tim had no trouble falling asleep, but around one a.m. he thought he heard a sound at his door, he opened his eyes and saw a shadow by his door. Just a trick of the light he told himself, there is nothing there. He heard a step on the floor and hit the flip switch on his bedside lamp. There at the foot of his bed was that grinning boy from the field…grinning with teeth black and rotting. Tim began to scream…