This month in language arts, T and I studied scary stories. His writing assignment for the month was to write a scary story. He wanted me to write one too. Since I did scary last year with my haunted corn maze
, I decided to try to creepy/unsettling instead.
He used to haunt me in my dreams so I stopped sleeping.
It’s not enough. Every time my eyes close, even to blink, I see his face. Pasty white skin, the edges a faint blue, stretch taut against his skull. Bruise-colored raccoon circles ring eyes so black and deep, I fear I’ll fall in and drown. He looks so familiar, like someone I’ve known my whole life, and yet I have no recollection of ever seeing him outside my dreams.
My constant companion, he follows me everywhere. I’ll glimpse him out of the corner of my eye, but he disappears every time I turn to look. What does he want from me? No matter how many times I ask, he never answers. His presence makes my skin crawl; the temperature drop.
My friends ask me why I’m always cold, always jittery, always looking about like I expect someone to jump out at me. Don’t they see him? Their brows furrow in confusion. I stop asking when the confusion turns to worry and then to pity. They think I’m crazy. Maybe I am.
The days drag by and I’m so tired. I doze off once and he comes to me. Water drips from his clothes, streaks down his skin like tears. He reaches a bony, trembling hand toward me. I back away from him, but there’s nowhere to run. I can’t let him touch me.
He steps closer, closer. Inches away from me.
My breath is ragged, tearing from my lungs like knives.
I startle awake, my heart slamming against my chest. I can’t stay here. I need to keep moving. Need to stay awake. I go for a walk. Maybe if I go far enough, I can escape him. I keep my eyes resolutely on the ground, my hands cupped around the sides of my face so I can’t see him.
Someone bumps into me. I reach out a hand to steady myself, touching cool, smooth glass. I look up. A mistake. There he is. A misty reflection wavering in a sliding glass door. I turn and run, but see him everywhere now. He chases me through windows, puddles, mirrors. Any reflective surface. I can’t run fast enough.
At home I pause outside my door, gasping in fear when I see him in the polished knob. I have to look away to open the door. Inside, I race through each room. There are too many mirrors. Too many windows. Too many shiny things. I grab my sheets, towels, anything to cover them all. Only the bathroom mirror remains. But I’m out of coverings.
He stares at me from the silvery surface.
“What do you want?” I scream. “Why won’t you leave me alone?”
He raises his hand toward me. Can he reach through the glass? I don’t wait to find out.
I yank the mirror off the wall and throw it to the floor. It hits with a satisfying smash. Shards of glass spray across the room, cutting my legs and feet. I hardly notice. All I see is his face a thousand times. Blinking at me from even the smallest slivers of broken mirror.
I dash from the room, slamming the door behind me. I fall to the floor, folding my knees to my chest. Tears stream down my cheeks. I can’t sleep, can’t leave my house. I can’t do anything for fear of seeing him again. If I’m not crazy already, I’ll surely go mad soon.
I lay there for so long that time seems to stop. I’m not sure if it’s hours or days before exhaustion overcomes me and I sleep.
This time when he reaches for me, I can’t wake up. The instant his skin touches mine, we’re transported.
We’re at the lake. It’s a beautiful autumn day. The leaves on the trees and scattered across the ground are ablaze with color. A blanket is spread before us, a picnic basket waits, filled with sandwiches and an apple pie.
He points, directing my attention to a couple holding hands and walking along the dock where a rowboat floats, tied to a piling. They look hazily familiar. The boy steps along the very edge like he’s on a tightrope.
“Careful,” the girl warns him.
He stumbles forward, arms freewheeling, fighting for balance. Her eyes widen with horror. She cries out, grabs for him. Laughing, he easily recovers. He’s only teasing. The girl huffs at him, shoves his shoulder.
This time, he really does slip. He reaches for her, hands grasping only empty air before he falls into the water. His head hits the edge of the dock.
I remember now.
The girls screams become my own. I’m no longer watching from the distance. I’m there, at the edge of the dock, hands outstretched in vain. The crystalline water turns crimson with his blood as he sinks further and further away from me.
I jump in, swallowing a large mouthful of lake. The frigid water paralyzes me. But I can’t let him die. I will my icy muscles to move and plunge beneath the surface. Again and again, diving deeper each time. At last I find him. It takes all my strength to drag him out of the water and push him onto the dock.
I’m too late.
Tears blind me as I scream over and over.
I’m too late.
“I’m sorry,” I sob. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
“I know,” he says. He stands over me. Over his body.
I shiver uncontrollably as I look up at him, expecting to see anger in those dark eyes. I find only sorrow.
“Forgive me,” I plead, desperate for him to stop haunting me.
“I already have,” he says. “Now you need to forgive yourself.”
I close my eyes and when I open them, I’m back on the floor in my hallway. I stand and slowly open the bathroom door. The mirror still lies broken, but now when I look into the jagged pieces, I see only me.