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PRELUDE TO INSANITY
Timothy P. Carnahan
Cole continued to hold the freshly retrieved ice pack against his left cheek. Thankfully, he could feel his face cooling and the throbbing slowing. He felt both weak and humiliated. He was thankful no one was currently home to witness his shame and prod him with questions about his disheveled appearance. He didn’t believe he’d offer an answer to any of his family’s questions anyway. Sometimes, he found it was better to simply keep your mouth shut in order to avoid scrutiny and criticism. Sighing deeply, he thought maybe he really had lost his mind. He often wondered if his nightmare was simply a sick creation that was only real within him. Maybe the doctors had been right and he forced seclusion upon himself. ‘What difference does it make either way?’ He thought stoically. He left the twilight lit kitchen and made his way upstairs to his bedroom. Although it was only six, he allowed himself to lie on his bed however, the motion made him nauseous and he had to force himself to swallow the bile that wretched into his throat.
‘Must be the head trauma,’ he thought dryly. He focused on trying to push the pain from his body and forced himself to slow his breathing in an attempt to calm his already agitated nerves. The fight that had transpired earlier that day was a painful reminder of a time not long ago when his life had changed forever. He closed his eyes and listened. He could hear the distant sounds of birds growing quiet as darkness descended. Often, when night came, he felt as if the world around him was dying, falling eerily silent in the failing evening glow of sunset. As nature quieted, sounds such as the dull hum of computer equipment and other electronic devices scattered about his room provided him with a sense of security against the silence of the darkness that was only minutes away. He didn’t fear the silence itself instead, he feared that silence allowed time for thinking and remembering. Neither of which he wanted to do. Although the distracting sounds provided a measure of comfort, they always reminded him of how much more reclusive he had become since he and his family had moved. He had no friends, no desires, and no dreams. Even the most rudimentary daily tasks felt beyond his control. For a time his family believed he was crazy, or suffering from stress, but the truth was something much different, something darker. He knew he couldn’t honestly expect anyone to believe his story so, he simply accepted whatever reasoning they chose to explain who he’d become. All the pain and hate that now governed his life was a direct reflection of his terrible nightmare. He opened his eyes and looked around his bedroom. Distraction was the key to maintain his sanity and that’s what he needed most right now. Everything appeared as it should be, yet he couldn’t fully quiet his sense of unease. “Maybe I am nuts.” He whispered into the darkness closing his eyes once again. His mind relented to the promise of sleep but slowly, and almost unnoticeably, he began to hear what sounded like a whisper. He didn’t move and forced himself to hold his breath in an attempt to make out any discernable words however quiet murmurs were all he could hear. ‘Thump!’ His eyes snapped open and he looked at his closet. ‘Things that go bump in the night,’ he mused, trying in vain to pull himself away from the fear that began to taunt him. Again, the voice spoke, and this time, he was able to decipher some of the words.
“Why did you leave?” the voice whispered now seeming to come from within his closet. It continued to speak but, the words were too muffled for him to understand.
He pulled himself into a sitting position and looked around nervously; his room, his refuge, felt stagnant and suffocating. There was no one there, nothing in the darkness, however, uneasiness wrenched at him all the same.
“You know where I am” the voice suggested bringing his attention back to the closet.
He closed his eyes, “it’s not real.” He tried to assure himself yet, sweat trickled down his cheeks and he began to panic. The voice was familiar, but it couldn’t be real.
“Can’t you hear me….I’m in here. You’re not going to leave me again, are you?” The voice hissed angrily.
He considered running from his room, even the house and getting as far away from his nightmare as possible, but he knew he wouldn’t be any more protected out in the night. He knew how dangerous it could be. “You aren’t real! Leave me alone!” He shouted into the darkness. He waited, watching and listening. Each second seemed to last hours. His body chilled as if he had been dipped in a pool of ice yet, he felt like his insides were on fire. The ambient sounds of his room seemed to have faded into a hollow silence. He glanced around looking for reassurance that everything was still where it should be however, his attention was immediately drawn back to the closet by the sound of the door handle twisting. Even in the dim light the rising moon provided, the brass handle shown clearly and he could swear that he saw it move, if only a tiny bit. He strained, pulling himself from his bed. He nearly jumped from his skin when something brushed his leg and thumped on the floor. He had forgotten about the ice pack and silently cursed himself for allowing it to startle him. Although he had his attention temporarily diverted elsewhere, he froze as the handle began to turn once more. Something was on the other side trying to get out. He reached for the door with tears coming to his eyes amidst the fear he felt. The closer he got, the more adrenaline surged violently through his system causing him a slight tremble. He touched the handle lightly and felt the hairs on his neck and forearms prickle his skin as if offering their own warning to turn away. With shaking hands and a racing heart, he withdrew from the door and rubbed his eyes furiously. ‘Shink’ the door was no longer latched but, it didn’t open as it normally would have being off level as it was.
“God Dammit!” His voice cracked audibly as he shouted at the door. Despite his best efforts to hide his fear, he knew he hadn’t been able to mask his emotions in the slightest.
Quietly, the voice whispered again however, it was clearer somehow, more distinct. He could have even sworn he felt a tickle upon his ear as if someone were speaking directly into it. “Don’t be frightened. I’ve missed you and now we can be together. Don’t you trust me?” it asked. Although the words seemed reassuring, the way they were spoken had a predatory feel to them.
He steeled himself and gripped the door handle raising one fist as he did. Slowly he began to pull the door away from the jamb finding every inch to be more nerve-wracking than the last. He consciously stopped himself when he pulled the door to no more than a couple inches ajar and waited. He expected something to charge from the other side and push him back onto his bed, he braced himself. However, after a few long seconds, nothing happened. In a desperate act fueled by panic, he yanked the door open and charged forward, his fist leading. He struck something that seemed to pop and spit as if he’d punched into thick mud riddled with twigs. The dark was unnaturally impenetrable, so much that he was unaware of what he hit or able to see the ichor that seemed to have encompassed his hand in a singular blob. He flicked for the light switch at his side and the closet radiated its light into the room. Momentarily blinded, he waited for his eyes to adjust and looked in at the scene before him. Nothing was there except a few shirts hung neatly directly in front of him, a couple had fallen to the floor and lay in heaps, however, nothing moved. No sounds presented themselves for it was simply an ordinary closet with ordinary things. Relieved, he turned his attention to his hand which now felt normal and no longer had the sensation of being covered in ooze. It was as if he hadn’t hit anything at all. Still uneasy, he shifted uncomfortably staring into the closet in disbelief. Seconds dwindled away and still, he didn’t avert his eyes. He waited for the whispers to return and laughed nervously when they didn’t. He closed the closet door and turned off the light. ‘Just my imagination,’ He thought leaving his room quickly and making his way down the hall to the upstairs bathroom. He splashed his face with cold water looking into the mirror at the haggard person before him. His face protruded on the left side more than double what his right did and he knew that he couldn’t hide the truth from anyone that would take a simple second to look. The scars that drew across his face were swollen and ashen purple from the bruises that were now forming on his right eyebrow and cheek. He grimaced at the sight of the person who stood glaring back at him. Although he was still shaken, he felt as if he had a better handle on himself as the cold water seemed to snap himself away from his fears. He took his reflection in as if looking at a stranger. He felt as if he barely recognized the person in the mirror. In only one year, he seemed to have aged ten. He was thin to the point many believed he’d become anorexic or heavily addicted to amphetamines. Furthermore, he looked tired, constantly carrying dark circles under his deep brown eyes that now had lost most of their previous luster. They had become so dark they could almost be considered black. He stared into the stranger’s eyes as if searching for something deeper that he wouldn’t see at a first glance. Although subtle, for a brief instant, he could have sworn his own eyes looked back at him with an unfamiliar murderous hatred. Still, they returned to normal before his mind could interpret the observation. ‘Gotta stop getting punched in the head’ he thought wearily. He returned to his bedroom and closed the closet door, pausing as he did so. ‘I could have sworn I closed that,’ he thought before he decided that he must not have latched the door fully when he left. It was dark, darker than usual but, he didn’t have the strength to care. Instead, he laid down again turning on his side determined that he would sleep away this god awful night. For a time he laid in silence with the low hum of electronics still buzzing all about him. He twisted and turned as the heat from his swollen face made him uncomfortably warm. He remembered that he had dropped the ice pack earlier so he looked over the side of the bed only to discover that it was no longer where it had fallen. Something felt wrong but he gripped the side of his mattress and prepared to look under his bed. Even at seventeen, he still felt apprehensive about the act but he assumed the ice pack must’ve bounced under there after he dropped it to the floor. It lay just under the edge of the bed enveloped within the true darkness. In essence, he half expected to see an ominous shadow blocking his view of the other side however he was relieved to find his fears were simply urgings of his already fragile mind. Breathing a sigh of anxious relief, he pulled himself back up onto his bed and let the freshly retrieved icepack rest on his face. This time, he would simply watch the closet until sleep would take him. Although his face was cold from the ice pack, the events of the day and his fading adrenaline started to catch up to him. He closed his eyes and nearly drifted to sleep when a sudden rush of fear overwhelmed him. Instantly, he was wide awake staring at the now opened closet door. He hadn’t even heard it open. He didn’t move, didn’t make a sound, instead he continued to stare at the door ajar waiting for something to appear.
“I’m right here babe!” the familiar voice whispered, not from the closet but, from behind him.
Feeling hopeless, he slowly turned to his other side and his heart sank. She was an illusion, a memory. He was made to believe she was nothing more than his own twisted creation. He shut his eyes as tears rolled down his face and tried to push her from his mind. You’re not real.” He whispered.
Gently he felt cold fingers press around his own. ‘She’s here.’ He thought opening his eyes slowly. His vision blurred through the tears, however, there she was, lying next to him as if they were never separated from one another. She was his childhood love. The purest love. Even in the darkness, he could see her delicate curves, her cream face and warm lips. Still, a part of him argued that he must be dreaming; that this moment couldn’t possibly be real. Regardless of the protests he felt, he couldn’t help but lose himself in her eyes. They were just as he remembered crisp, seductive, beautiful chocolate orbs that seemed to shine in protest of the darkness.
“I’ve missed you.” She whispered…………………………………
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