A dream of pale, flesh colored thread.
I blinked back the darkness encompassing my vision, revealing again the dusty room we had been biding our time in. I must’ve fallen asleep, and the Sun was now dead, the window revealing night blanketed over the countryside. The moonlight casted shadows of corpses of forests and dead verdure, the sheets of snow reflecting the light with a strange sheen.
The musty scent of moth-eaten chairs and aging wood was dry in my lungs as I inhaled it, causing me to sneeze. The noise was loud, echoing throughout the spacious living room, and the interruption reminded me of the silence of the place, a midnight graveyard filled with the absence of life. I got up off the wooden chair, scratching my freshly dyed blonde hair, and went over to my bag. I pulled out my vial of klonapin, and I could feel the dismay etch into my face as I realized it was empty. I subconsciously began picking the scab on my wrist at the thought, peeling it off before I realized I had even done it.
Fuck. Fuck, what was I going to do? The last dose was probably flushed out of my system by now, what if something happened? What if some terrible catastrophe happened, what if someone saw me and called the cops, or I fell through a weak piece of flooring and broke a leg, or if someone owned this house and came in and started to hack away at our-
No. No, none of that will happen, it never does. Take a breath.
My throat tickled as I took a deep breath, and then I was calm again. Everything would be fine, as this would be an enjoyable night. Surely.
Since the silence was still heavy, I decided to try and find my friends. I made my way down a darkened hallway, my steps light on decayed carpet, and then entered the atrium. It was once grand, I could tell, the ceiling high and the stained glass congealed with years of dirt. I was about to cross to the hallway opposite of me when I heard footsteps. Faint, quick, there and gone. Their echoes died out, and I didn’t hear them again. Must’ve been my friends.
I ascended the staircase, a red carpet with dulled gold trim hiding the tarnished wood beneath, and as I reached the top, I saw no one. Silver streamed through the windows, illuminating everything in a surreal light. Not a single breath besides my own to behold. I was in another hallway, from which multiple more branched off. There were closed doors lining the walls up to the very end, where it T’ed off. A desk and a portrait hugged the splintering wooden wall to my right, and I approached it.
Upon the stand were various newspaper articles. They all seemed to be about a murder case, but I wasn’t able to glean the details, as the paper was yellowed and the ink distorted by age and neglect. The portrait had a thick layer of dust over it, and I began wiping it off, noting various features.
A white Victorian era dress, pale, thin flesh, a locket with a blurred painting inside, a woman’s face turned to the side, tendrils of black hair, a lake behind her, her nose aquiline and pretty, her eyebrows contorted in hatred, skin pulled over her mouth, pulled over her eyes, sealed seamlessly
I backstepped, confused and creeped out.
“What an ugly painting,” I said to no one in particular. A shudder groaned from within the walls. Who would commission this kind of thing? And to keep it in one’s home, on display? What kind of place have we entered?
I left it behind, trying to destroy the image emblazoned within my mind. My eye twitched at the mere thought of it. As I came to one of the paths that led away from the hallway, I stopped, trying to determine the most likely source of the footsteps I had heard. It was a vain effort, however. Sounds reverberated strangely in this decrepit mansion, and the blueprint for it must have been modeled off a maze. The only way I would find them would be to search.
I took the hallway next to me, walking the winds utterly without a direction. Corner after corner, hallway after hallway, I wandered until I came across a door cracked open, and since all the rest had been closed, I thought it might be a lead. The rusted hinges cried out as I entered what looked like a bedroom.
The darkness was palpable here, and though there was a window, the Moon struggled to reach in, its grasp weak against the inky sea. I stood a moment, allowing my eyes to adjust, and outlines of items became solid. The room was small and sparsely furnished, a bed and dresser filling most of the space. There was also a closet.
The room had a feel, an intuitive glimpse of the past. I could tell someone had lived here once, years ago, though most of the evidence had been purged. A history pervaded throughout, in pockmarks on the corners of the bed frame, the smears of fingerprints on the window, the outlines of objects that once laid upon the dresser, and the fingernail marks along the floor that led out of the room.
I walked over to the dresser, running my fingers over the cold, hard wood. Fit for a coffin. I opened a drawer to discover a red speckled sewing needle, and a necklace beside it. Looked like the one in the painting. I unlatched it, taking a look at the portrait of the person inside. It might have been a man, but age had blurred too many of the nuances. His hair seemed to be a brown-yellow, but that was the only detail I could be sure of. The locket itself was ornate, and besides the flecks of dark red, it was in good condition. I decided to pocket it, wondering if it had any value. A groan sounded from deep within the house.
I heard something. A tiny squeaking. I turned around. The closet door was jittering, ever so slightly, as if pushed by some ethereal, spectral hand. Had the closet door been open or closed when I came in? I couldn’t remember, and approached it. There was no one around. Perhaps it was just a symptom of a settling house. The only thing I could see inside the closet was what appeared to be chains. The darkness was thick, it almost seemed to breathe.
I began to experience a strange sensation. I felt xenophobic vibes emanate from the heart of the darkness, the darkness so vast, endless, much larger than the physical confines, I stared at it and I could feel it staring back at me, into me, eye contact with an entity I couldn’t perceive but could knew was there nonetheless. A primal urge rose up within my throat, constricting it, as if the darkness had grown fingers that wrapped around my throat, they were so icy, so very dead. My flesh crawled, my heart rose in volume, a siren, a dinner bell signaling to all a coming feast of carrion, and I left the suffocating pressure of the room.
I quickly slammed the door when I got back in the hallway. My body was hot, too hot, my hands palsied, my pulse arrhythmic. The panic was clawing its way into my mouth, and the urge to vomit was painfully strong. Someone, something was here, I could hear its shallow breath, its talons clicking against the rotted floorboards, its tongue long and barbed, salivating at the thought of fresh flesh, yellowed fingernails twitching with murderous intent. It wanted to eat me, to consume every part of me, I squirmed inside my body at the thought, of being eaten alive, I was going to-
Take a fucking breath. Do you hear anything? Silence. There’s nothing here.
It’s hiding, waiting, lurking, watching with bloodshot eyes and thin, ghoulish fingers, its face skeletal, and the hunger, dear God the hunger on its face, the lust for my blood contorting its features-
NO. These things don’t exist anywhere besides your mind. If there was some creature here, it would have already killed you. It’s all in your head. Calm down. Take another breath.
I did, and the comforting rationale of my mind cleansed the images of a ghastly stalker. I stood there for a moment, immersed in each deep breath, relishing the silence, the absence of any malignant presence. There was no one here. My friends were somewhere close, but for now, I was alone. Completely and utterly alone.
It was time to head back downstairs. I couldn’t explore the ever-winding innards of this house by myself, not without letting my imagination get the best of me. If my friends weren’t back, or I didn’t see them on my way, I would wait, maybe outside if I needed.
The layout was monotonous, the hallways identical, the same sullen gray light pouring through the same nondescript windows. The mansion looked large on the outside, but this was different, it was impossibly big, and I was completely lost, despite a genuine effort to escape. It was like a dream, not a whisper of another living being, not a single distinguishing detail in the halls. Like what Hell might be like. All alone.
More minutes passed as the word kept repeating in my mind. Nothing moved. My heartbeat rose in sporadic beats. I turned a corner to see another long hallway, impossibly long, with more branching paths. My eyelid began to twitch. It was the same door under each doorway, the same flaking paint on every wall, the same scent of decayed splendor. My footsteps increased in pace, my eyes scanning wildly for something, anything, my chest growing tighter, my breathing uneasy, the walls closing in and inciting a claustrophobia I couldn’t bear. And there was the silence.
The silence of loneliness. Ululating, cacophonous, abysmal, piercing silence.
I was alone, excruciatingly and absolutely alone. My consciousness convulsed inside, trying to break free from my body and this situation like an insect in a leech’s maw. I couldn’t do this, I had to get out, I gotta get out, someone help me, GET ME OUT-
Breathe. Take a breath. You’ll find your way-
No, no I won’t, it’s been so long now, how long? Fifteen, twenty, maybe thirty minutes? I’ve been wandering forever, this house is supernatural, time doesn’t exist in this place, we shouldn’t have come, I’m trapped, entombed-
Calm down, you crazy fuck, there’s no such thing as the supernatural. This is a normal house, spacious, but normal, with a finite space. You just gotta-
What is that? It feels like eyes. Is someone watching me? I don’t see anyone, or hear anything, but it feels like someone is here, someone’s stalking me, waiting for the moment to murder me, I’m going to die, I’m never-
There’s nothing there! It’s just a figment of your imagination. Take a breath and look out the window. Do you see the Moon?
I looked. Nothing but a sea of blackness filled the sky. A murder of crows flew by.
Ok, what about the other window?
I looked out one on an adjacent wall. An empty sky.
The Moon was visible through the window in the living room. Just go opposite the direction of these windows and you’ll find your way back.
Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense. I was restored to a calm state at the logic, that the things I feared didn’t exist, that it was all just a series of unfortunate coincidences that I should be so lost. I began walking again as my breath slowed back down, and in a last bout of nausea, bumped into a wall and abraded my arm. After a few minutes, I reached a hallway and spied the staircase at the very end. I became ecstatic, my ordeal finally over. I could tell my friends about what happened and we’d all-
Footsteps. Faint, quick. From around a corner. The air grew cold with the presence of something malevolent, frigid and icy, it leeched the warmth from my body, drank my vitality. The blood drained from my face. I crept up to the corner. Looked down the impossibly long hallway. A dark doorway, a flash of white fabric and pale flesh, and the door slammed shut, hard. I choked up, a gasp lodged in my throat. A darkness arose from deep within my being, a despair and dread that seized my organs, my pulse rising into a frenetic dirge.
There WAS something here, something sinister and evil, something beyond the natural laws of the world rationalists placed so much faith in. I was being watched the whole time, I was being stalked and followed and my flesh was lusted for every unsuspecting second. I was fantasized about, this thing wondered how it should separate my body, a saw or its hands, what piece of my body to eat first, the tanginess of the gristle, the satisfying chewiness of the muscle, the sweet slurp of bone marrow. The panic was incendiary, cauterizing every vein within my body with trepidation, the mind raced and yet was silent at the same time. I felt a warmth on my wrist. It was blood, I was wounded, when, how? I hadn’t even felt it, what did this to me? I knew in this moment I was going to die. My consciousness struggled inside, like a prisoner manacled, it seizured and flailed, trying to leave my body and its foreseen demise.
I was positively writhing inside.
The next second I was sprinting. Screaming for my friends. The hallway seemed to elongate like an optical illusion, and then the moonlight streaming through the windows fell faint, and the darkness grew, raking fingers across every inch of the hallway. My footsteps were drowned by a chorus of disembodied voices, ethereal and eldritch, and the grain of the wood on the walls seemed to meld together, forming ghoulish faces, animated with peculiarity, unnaturally, the ceiling seemed to breathe and bend, the edges of corners vibrated, and all around me, a deep groan rose up from within all of the walls.
And while I was distracted by all these things, I tripped and fell down the stairs. I slammed my head, and broke a rib. It was painful, blindingly so, and as the blood gushed from my forehead as I lay at the foot of the staircase, I heard my friends coming.
“What the fuck? Dude, are you ok?” Matt asked as he rushed down the stairs. Jasmine and Maddison followed suit.
“Uh, yeaaah, I just, sorta, fell,” I replied.
“Nice, I see that, what’s going on man, what happened?”
“You guys, there’s something here. Something wants to kill us, like a ghost or whatever. We gotta roll now, like, we NEED to leave.”
“What? What’re you talking about? It’s just a spooky house!”
“Someone, something is up there. I could feel it. It cut my wrist, and you know how ghosts steal your life force? That happened to me, too, the air got real cold, and right after that I saw something in a doorway, and then the door slammed. Let’s go, I’ll tell you guys more when we leave.”
“Oh, damn, yeah, that was us. I opened up a window because I thought it was too warm. But I guess I was the only one.”
“Yeah, ’cause it’s cold, ’cause it’s fucking December!” Jasmine said.
“Yeah, whatever, anyways, we went into that room up there and closed that door to keep the wind from coming in, there’s a really cool fireplace in it. But we were the ones up there, man, it’s only us here. We’re alone-” Matt continued, but I began to ignore him. It was only us, I had completely misconstrued what I was perceiving, I had let my awry thoughts get the best of me. I was immensely relieved, and as it suffused across my body like a warm blanket, I lost consciousness.
A glimpse of the spool.
Immediately my eyes opened, I was jolted back into my body. The memory of a spectral stalker quickly rose in my mind, but then another, of the realization that there really wasn’t anything here, calmed the panic that threatened to flood my lungs again.
“Hello?” I called out.
“Oh, hey man, you good?” It was Matt’s voice, from up the stairs.
“Yeah, I feel a lot better. Where’s Maddison and Jasmine?”
“They went to get you a doctor, we felt sketched out when you passed out. That’s a brutal bruise on your head, man,” he said as I began walking up the stairs.
“Yeah, I know it. What’re you doing?”
“Just checking out this painting. Did you open all these doors? I can’t remember if they were open when we ran down those stairs.”
“Doors? Huh?” I said as I reached the top of the stairwell. Every single door in the hallway was wide open, jittering slightly.
“Dude, check out these teeth!”
“What teeth?” I said, turning towards the painting.
The blonde man in her locket had my face. She held a sewing needle up, her nails ripped off. A thousand bloody, jagged bones stuck through the flesh where her mouth should’ve been. Her eyeless face had turned to stare right at me.
A deep groan shuddered within the walls of the house.
The necklace in my pocket began to burn.