Empty Rooms

3096 words. A teenager finds himself suddenly awake in a strange, empty, abandoned lab. He isn’t excited to find out what’s within.

I woke up with a sharp pain in my back. I was lying on a hard-tiled floor, with my legs bent into an uncomfortable position. I forced my arms to lift me up, and then looked around. The room was well lit, mostly a clean grey color, and looked like some sort of laboratory without any of the equipment. The shelves were empty, the counters were empty, and the cupboards were empty. It looks like whoever left me here was very determined to clean things up thoroughly.

The room also lacked windows. It was strange. Don’t scientists like the sun? I shrugged it off, guessing I must be in a basement or just one room without windows. I put my hand on the doorknob, and opened the door. To my disappointment, the bright, grey hallway it opened to also lacked any windows. I must be in a basement, and there must be stairs leading out of here.

I wandered the door-lined hallway, opening the metal doors the whole time, just trying to see if the stairs were behind a door. Who could’ve brought me to this place? Why would they even want me? This place is too neat and together to be some abandoned building, so it’s clear this was done with some intent greater than a kidnapping or a joke. I was getting more desperate with every empty room behind every door I opened.

I stopped walking. Hold on. What was I doing last night? I couldn’t remember. I reached into my pocket, to pull out my phone and look at the date. My pocket was empty. Someone had taken it. Great. I sat on the ground, feeling utterly abandoned.

Sadness quickly turned to frustration and anger, as I tried as hard as I could to remember the last few days. I couldn’t. All I could remember were the biggest events to have happened recently. My birthday. A date with a girl. Hanging out with my best friend. All of these things felt like they happened years ago. I couldn’t even remember their faces. I started to question if they had actually happened. I was furious, all of my memories felt fabricated, and I had no way to find out why.

I stood up again. I needed to keep myself busy before I fell into a crisis. The only thing I could think to do was find the stairs. Thus, I kept myself moving along, opening door after door, peeking into empty room after empty room.

I was at the last door of this hall. It would either be the stairs or another hall. I took a deep breath, and turned the handle.

It wasn’t either of the possibilities I had just proposed. Instead, I stood frozen in fear, staring into the carnage that could barely be considered a room. Blood, human tissue, and bile covered the walls and floor. The lights were tinted a deep red, they were so covered in blood.

My eyes quickly shifted to the most disturbing sight I had ever seen. There was a creature sitting in the center of the room. It looked humanoid, but was many feet taller than any man I had ever seen. It had six arms, two where they were intended to be, but four more below the others, each with its own shoulder. It was incredibly thin, and I could count all of its ribs, even with this distance. Its spine rippled out of its flesh, and was on the brink of tearing through its own skin. Its bare legs were just as proportional: incredibly long and thin, poking out on either side of it at incredibly acute angles. It was easily more terrifying than the rest of the room.

The creature’s arms were tearing apart some carcass that I couldn’t see through the creature. All I saw was blood dripping from its skeletal hands. I thought it was eating the corpse, but then it turned its startlingly clean face toward me.

Suddenly, the room’s full height became apparent as this emaciated creature stood to face me. Its mouth was disproportionately wide. Its eyes were small in comparison, despite the extra room from its missing nose. Suddenly the terror left my legs, and I found myself running back down the hallway, leaving the open room behind me. I opened more doors as I fled, hoping to throw the creature away from me.

I turned into some random room, slamming the door. Damn, why isn’t there any furniture? I could really use a barricade. Instead, I hid in a cupboard, trying to stifle my tired pants and pounding heart.

I had to have waited for a few minutes before opening the cupboard, tentatively. There was nothing there. I crawled out of the cupboard. My adrenaline must have worn off, because I felt queasiness rise then overtake me. I vomited. Then I dry heaved. By the time I was done, my stomach hurt. I took off my jacket, and wiped my face off. My jacket was disgusting, so I simply tossed it onto a counter.

I quietly opened door and peered into the hallway. It was just as I had left it. The doors were still torn open . I hesitated. The creature could have waltzed into any of those rooms, and could be waiting for me now. I cautiously stepped backward into the room.

It was time to think. My hands were shaking, and I still felt sick. I looked around, and noticed what could be my saving grace. It was a sink! I felt my heart skip a beat as I rushed to the sink. I eagerly turned both handles.

There was water.

I drank greedily, my foul-tasting mouth being cleansed of its stale and terrible taste. I pulled my face away from the sink, and wiped my mouth. I still felt hungry, but I didn’t feel nearly as weak. As my strength returned to me, I found it odd I had never noticed the sinks before.

I walked back into the hall, with a newfound vigor in my steps. I looked into each door, and confidently closed them when I still found the contents empty.

I approached a door near the disgusting room. I looked in, then shut it. I looked at the disgusting room’s door. I shuddered, then quickly shut it before looking in. I sighed in relief. I didn’t want to deal with that room anymore.

I looked down the hallway and my handiwork. All of the doors were shut. I thought that I might wash off my jacket, seeing that I was going to be here a while.

Problem was, I didn’t remember what room it was in. I sighed. I guessed I would have to open every door again, and find my jacket the hard way.

I opened a few doors and shut them as I past. There was nothing in each. I was starting to reject the idea of cleaning my jacket.

I stalwartly stood at a door. If it didn’t have my jacket, I was going to simply give up and leave. I turned the doorknob, and pushed open the door. The room was dim. Only a single white light in the center was shining. Shining straight onto the creature! I stood still. If I made a sound, it would likely chase after me.

I heard a sink running. The creature was hunched next to the source of the sound. It seemed this room wasn’t quite tall enough to hold the creature. I held my breath.

The creature moved its shoulders frequently. I couldn’t clearly tell what it was trying to do, but I guessed it had to have been washing its hands. I resumed breathing as silently as I could.

It turned toward the light, and in result me, looking at its hands. They weren’t nearly as bloody as before, but they were still very well stained. I guessed right. It had been washing its hands.

I quietly left the door, and snuck into the nearest room, and hid in another cupboard. Better safe than sorry.

I waited another long while, trying to still my breath. I didn’t know how I had been so calm before, I was panicking now. My heart pounded, and my stomach fluttered. After some few minutes, and no noise, I slid out of the cupboard. There was nothing around. My room was still empty, but the creature could be anywhere. I took a deep breathe in, then raggedly breathed out. I was screwed.

I realised that I couldn’t just sit around and wait. I would likely starve. I made the choice to keep pressing forward. Whatever “forward” meant. I took to the door, opened it, then exhaustedly shuffled into the hallway, hands shaking with fear.

The hall was just as I left it. Every door was still shut. I closed my eyes and scrunched my face in frustration. I was back at square one.

I looked into a door. Behind it was no longer a room. Only another hallway with more doors. I suddenly felt cold. I opened another door. It held another hall. I stared down the hall in utter terror.

The terror disappeared,replaced by rage. I screamed and fell into a wall, sliding down it into a sitting position. God, what was I to do? This place had changed in the minutes that I had hidden in the cupboard. I didn’t know where the creature was. Maybe these hopeless hallways saved me from that thing.

I felt weak. My gut hurt from emptiness, and I was sore from running then vomiting. Every step felt like iron was strapped to my feet. My head hurt, as if I had a concussion. I really didn’t want to move, but I knew I had to.

I stood up once again. I opened every door in my hallway, hoping to see a room with something different than all of these extra halls. In time, I did. It was the disgusting room. It no longer held the creature. Only a naked man with his rib cage torn open. I would have vomited again had my stomach not been empty. Instead, I dry heaved another time. I walked away from the room, my heart pounding. This thing was somewhere. It was loose. It could kill me at any moment and I wouldn’t have any of the answers I’m looking for. I stepped back into the room. There must be something in here that I can use. I looked at the carcass. Of course there was nothing on it; it was naked and dead. I looked for a protrusion in the walls, hoping for a door. I didn’t find one. I opened the cupboards. Those were empty too.

I looked at my hands. They were covered in blood from the walls.

I searched for the room with my jacket. It took a little while, but I found it again. I wiped my hands off on the jacket, but they still had some dried blood on them after wiping them off. It seemed strange that this room and the disgusting room hadn’t been changed into hallways like the rest. I investigated the room, looking for some greater significance. The only conclusion I could come to was my jacket. This room held my jacket, so it didn’t change. The disgusting room held a body, so it didn’t change. There was another room that held me, and so it remained here. The rooms weren’t empty anymore, so they didn’t leave me.

After convincing myself that my theory was true, I entered the hallway again. The only thing left to do was test doors and see if I can find the stairs. I opened a door into another hallway and went in. I opened another door, to another hallway, and entered that hallway. I opened another door, one that was randomly in the center. Another hallway. I stepped into that hall.

I paced down that hallway. I was going to try a door at the end. What did I really have to lose? I stepped along the hallway. There has got to be some solution besides just guessing. I wanted to find it, but I had no resources. Besides, I honestly don’t know what kind of resources I would need.

My thoughts were interrupted by some tiles in the ceiling moving. Suddenly, the creature fell before me. I screamed again, and turned around, trying to get back to the previous hallway. I looked back for a moment to see the creature chasing after me in its full gait. My eyes widened, my chest pounded, and my hands shook.

I ran, ignoring the doors at my sides. I got to the end of the hallway, and turned the doorknob. It was locked. I turned the door to my left and pulled it open successfully. I slammed the door before the creature could get in, and pressed my whole body against it. I heard scratching at the door, and pounding. I didn’t hear the creature make a sound from its own tongue, however.

After a few minutes, I felt the creature’s weight leave the door, and I heard more ceiling panels move. The struggle between us had ended. I let go of the door, and turned to the hallway I was now in. My fear had fallen from me. The creature was weaker than I had first anticipated. Either that, or it’s just holding back.

I opened another few doors. I walked through another few hallways. Again and again, I was faced with the same sights. It seemed as if these halls were just a repetition of one. God, if only I could know.

I chose to enter another hallway. I wanted to lay down and sleep. However, I decided that there wasn’t really any energy being wasted if the only other option was to die. My hands shook from weakness. I placed my hand on the doorknob, and opened it. I would like to say I walked into the hall, but I’m lucky I didn’t fall down as I entered. I took a quick look around, hoping to see that there was something I had been missing. I sighed.

The door abruptly slammed behind me. I turned, my heart pounding in my chest once more. I turned toward the door, and pounded on it, screaming. Fuck, now I’m stuck again! I turned back around, and stopped where I was. The creature was there. It was on the other side of the hall. I figured the noise of my panic drowned out its movement in the ceiling.

I couldn’t help but notice its hands were much less bloody than when I first saw it. I felt my face lock up. It cleaned its hands just to pick me apart.

There were only about one hundred feet separating us. He stood there, hunched, staring straight at me. I stared back. I was either going to die here or I was going to hide in another hall. A hallway where I could still be killed. I made a split-second choice.

I ran towards the creature. It began crawling toward me with a disturbing walk cycle consisting of all of its limbs. I continued running toward the creature, resolute. I wasn’t going out without a fight.

I reached its position, and punched it in the jaw. I felt adrenaline once more. I punched it again. Then I punched it again. It started using four arms to block its face, while using another two to try and grab me. I grabbed one of its arms, and tore it off. It was brittle to the touch, and cracked more the harder I gripped it. The creature fell back, holding its bleeding shoulder. I dropped its bloodied and broken arm.

It turned to me. I could see terror in its eyes. I could see tears in its eyes. The grotesque thing standing before me was crying. It made no sounds in any of its throes. I stared at it. This terrible monstrosity stood before me, essentially begging for mercy.

I was its monster. I took a look at the blood on my hands. The fresh blood that stained my hands. This creature was frail. It was helpless. I took off my shirt, and stepped towards it. It recoiled in fear, before falling to the ground in submission. I took off my shirt, tore it, then used it to bandage the creature. I held it as gently as I could. For the first time since I woke up, I spoke. “Please forgive me.”

It laid there. It was still frail. Only now, instead of it being only physically frail, it was emotionally frail. I hung my head, and walked away. I sat in the corner of the hallway. There was no way I was getting out of here. The only company I had was the confused amalgamate, and I had torn off one of its arms. I was going to die here alone. Well, not alone, but with something that feared and probably hated me.

I opened the door I was leaning against. Surprisingly, it was a room. I must have moved to the opposite side of the hallway. Opposite being relative to where I started.

I looked in the room. This room also had a massive ceiling, large enough to fit the creature at its full height. The walls were covered with mirrors. I approached one.

What I saw in the mirror was horrifying. My own slight frame, my torso exposed, blood covering my hands and crawling up my forearms. My own rib cage, with those grooves in my skin visible. I had more in common with the creature then ever came to mind.

A glint in the mirror caught my eye. I turned around, and saw a counter in the middle of the room. I walked to it. The glint on this counter was actually a knife.

I could feel my pulse in my fingers. I could kill the creature, and end its terrible and silent existence. Is that what I’m supposed to do in order to get out? Is that what those sick bastards who put me in here want?

I didn’t care anymore. I didn’t want answers anymore. I didn’t care about any solution to this puzzle. I just wanted out. I wanted to leave this place in peace. I only wish I could’ve undone the damage I had done. I took a deep breath. I knew what I needed to do.

I placed the tip of the knife over my heart.

1:20

1417 words. Watch someone’s daily routine unfold

I woke up blinking tears out of my eyes. That was odd. It had never happened before. I must have slept funny or something.

I sat up and rubbed the tears out of my eyes. Maybe it was just some light allergies from my new air freshener. I looked at the clock. It was about eight o’clock. I sighed. I always wake up early.

I got out of bed and shuffled into the kitchen. I grabbed a bowl and poured a couple oatmeal packets into it. I filled it with water, then put it into my microwave for a couple minutes. I stared at the rotating plate blankly, and yawned. The timer went off and I took my bowl out. I sat at my table and ate, still in my pajamas. I finished the bowl and then washed it out in my sink.

I walked into my bathroom- much more awake now- to brush my teeth. I put on a two minute timer and put the brush into my mouth. Two minutes passed, and so I flossed between my teeth for a bit as well.

I moved into my kitchen again. I wanted to decide what I should make myself for dinner. It would be easier to cook if I let whatever I wanted to thaw. I decided I would just make something simpler tonight, like some sort of pasta, so that I wouldn’t have to put out any meat.

I slowly turned about my kitchen. My eyes scanned it until I eventually saw my knives. I stared at them intently. I stared at them for at least ten minutes, just debating in my own head. I eventually shook my head and forcibly walked to my den.

I tossed open the door, and looked at the bookshelves I had lining the wall. They contained many interesting stories. All of which I’ve read at least twice over. I sighed again. Maybe I should go buy some new books. A couple individual shelves still had extra space. I could fit a bit into them. I shrugged it off for now. I could do something else. The clock only said 8:46.

I decided to take a shower. That could easily blow off twenty minutes. Besides, it’s nice to be clean. It reminds me that I can keep things in order in one way or another. Showers are nice for things besides cleanliness, though. I like the warmth the water gives me. There’s something more tolerable about warm water than warm air.

I finished my shower. I dried up and combed my hair. I looked at my bathroom clock. It said 9:14. That was pretty good amount of time to shower. I opened my medicine cabinet to put my comb away. It was filled to the brim with various pills I had stopped taking months ago. I didn’t even remember what half of them were for. I just remember I had stopped taking them. I probably stopped taking them after being prescribed over a dozen a day. Taking that many pills seemed wrong.

I thought about taking them again. They were prescribed for a reason, right? Maybe using them again would help, even if it has been a couple months.

I shook myself out of my stupor. My clock said 9:21 before immediately switching to 9:22. I shook my head some more as I left the bathroom. That was preposterous. Taking that many pills so suddenly would cause some definite damage. I didn’t want to be a part of it.

I went back into my study. I ignored the bookshelves and went straight to my desk. I looked through each of the drawers. I saw everything that was supposed to be there. Pencils, papers, erasers, even a set of pastels I use very occasionally. Seeing everything in place didn’t stop me from looking through each drawer a few times each.

I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. I figured I’d find it, but deep down I knew that nothing new and interesting waited in the places I looked. I eventually resigned my search. I thought it’d be simpler to just pick up another book. I had made a chart that marked how recently I had read each book. That would make it easier to choose, because I’d only have to pick out of some of the ones I hadn’t picked up in months. My clocks said 9:57.

I looked at the list, and picked the one furthest up that hadn’t been scratched out. Then I scratched it out and wrote it’s title and the date at the bottom of the list. This page was full. I’d need a new one next time I read a book.

I read the book for a couple hours, but I didn’t remember much about it. It was refreshing, almost as if I had picked up a brand new book. I was glad for the change. I could quote an amount of these books with ease, and point out every literary element. I could point out the literary elements as I read this book, but I didn’t know exactly what they’d lead up to.  I enjoyed it.

My grandfather clock rang out at exactly twelve o’clock. I suppose that meant it was lunch time. I put a bookmark in my book, then went back to my kitchen to get lunch.

Making my best effort not to look at the knives, I made a simple turkey and cheese sandwich. I ate that one, then made another. They weren’t the most filling meal, but a couple could easily hold me over until dinner. My clock said 12:38. I noticed that I was seeing a lot of even numbers in the minutes place.

I looked at my legs, and realised I was still in my pajamas. I decided to go get dressed. I had no idea how I hadn’t changed after my shower. It was an unclean move. Oh well, a simple change should alleviate the issues I’m feeling.

I briskly walked back into my bedroom, and pulled a pair of jeans out of my dresser. Then I opened my closet. I looked at all of my shirts. I knew that nearly any of them would match jeans, but I still liked to take my time deciding on the shirts I wear. I looked downward in thought.

My eyes were bombarded with a large bundle of rope I had piled underneath my shirts. I had looked at this rope every day for the past three months. I didn’t even remember where I had gotten it. I just know that I didn’t like the thoughts that came with it. Still, just like every day, I stared at it and considered the possible uses for the rope. My clock said 1:12 by the time I had finished staring and thinking. I shook my head harshly, then grabbed a shirt and got dressed. I never knew why I wasted so much time staring at the rope.

I sighed as I left my room. This was the life I chose. I chose to just sit about my home for the rest of my life, relying on an inheritance I had received only eight months earlier. Day after day I had become more and more reclusive. I wasn’t cut out for anything anymore. I didn’t use my laptop and internet for anything but ordering some food online every now and then. The people who deliver my food were the most social interaction I did recently. I always held them for about twenty minutes of conversation before tipping them double the cost of my food.

I reentered my study and tried to read. My clock said 1:18 when I finally gave up on reading anymore. I had lost my interest somewhere along the line. I found myself wanting to do more. I wanted to have more. I wanted…

I wanted to be more.

I slowly stood up from the desk. I took 3 steps and was in the hallway. I gently shut my study door. A dozen more tentative steps, and I was at my front door.

I took a deep breath. I was going to leave. The sun shone lazily through my window. I placed my hand on the doorknob, and turned it. I lightly pushed the door open. It lifted itself open in a similar manner. I was finally leaving. I took my first step outside in two weeks.

My clock said 1:20.

Entrapment

I wrote Sabrina Tellez a story, and she created an art piece to accompany it Entrapment is the story, and Sage is the art.

I woke up to my abrasive alarm forcing itself into my ears. I turned it off then stretched. There was a brand new day ahead of me, and I wanted to get as much done as I could.

I got out of bed and got dressed. I was ready for whatever came my way. Nothing could stop me from eating breakfast and brushing my teeth! The world was my oyster, and I could have whatever I want!

“Sage, are you ready to get to work?” I heard Mother’s voice call to me from the next room. I followed the sound, and told her yes.

Mother must have been up fairly early, as all of our gear was set up. I immediately got to work. “Thank you, Mother, for preparing our tools without my help.” She smiled, and began to work.

We had only been working for somewhere around an hour before Mother cut her hand. She covered the cut with her other hand, and told me to go downstairs and find our first aid kit. Luckily, she had shown me it before, so I knew exactly what to look for.

I went to the basement level, and began to look through cabinets for the kit. However, after only a few moments, I noticed a small door that I had never seen before. It was only about as tall as my knees. I wondered to myself what it could be for, but I ignored it. Mother’s hand was still bleeding, and I needed to get her bandages.

I looked through another few cupboards before finding the kit, and rushing back upstairs to give it to Mother. She told me where the bandages were, and how to apply them to her hand. Only ten minutes had passed between the initial cut and it getting bandaged. We spent another six hours completing our work.

After our work, Mother congratulated as usual. “I appreciate your efforts, Sage. You may return to your room, and spend your time as you will. Our work shall continue tomorrow.”

I replied in the way I had been taught. “Thank you, Mother, for providing me with fruitful work.”

I returned to my room, and turned on the light, expelling the pitch blackness within. I sat upon my bed, and reflected the knowledge I had. I have been alive for 17 years. I have always been within this home. Mother loves me. My work is appreciated.

Once again, I found myself questioning the knowledge I had. Why did I work? All I’ve ever known is myself and Mother, and she never seems to acknowledge our work outside of when we are working. She never explains the work, and she never tells me about anything. In fact, I don’t even understand why our lights turn on when we press a switch. I don’t actually know anything.

Suddenly, my mind drifted to the tiny door I found hidden in the corner, behind the cupboards that always obstructed my ability to see it. I had never known of it before today. Why was that?

I turned off my lights. “Goodnight, sweet Mother,” I whispered out of habit. I didn’t actually plan to sleep. I was going to enter that door.

I opened my door quietly and barely, then snuck out. There was no light in the hallway. The only reason I could see was because of the dim glow of lights lining where the floor and walls connect. I walked, quietly and crouched, toward the stairs leading down. I snuck down those stairs. This time, it was utterly pitch. There weren’t any lights in the corners like there were everywhere else. I wondered how I never noticed it before.

Still crouching, I used my hands to follow the walls and cabinets, following them until I felt the light divot between the wall and door. I pushed on it. It didn’t move, so I felt for a handle to pull it open. Of course, there was. I found myself crawling through it before truly understanding what I was doing.

It was still just as dark in the other room. I had to crawl blind. I tried to move slowly and keep my head down, just in case I ran into a wall. Eventually, I did.

My head pushed the wall open. It was another door, and it wasn’t closed very securely.

Light fell through the gap. It was a bright light that I wasn’t used to. It was brighter than anything I had ever seen before. I squinted and pushed the door open the rest of the way.

It took at least a couple minutes for my eyes to adjust to the intimidating light. Once they had, however, they couldn’t stop staring at the source. It was a clear wall above me. I looked for a switch to turn it off, but there was none. The light couldn’t be turned off. I looked about the room, and saw colors I had never been familiar with. I only recognised white amongst the rest of strange items. I put my hand onto one of the white ones. It was soft. I felt like I could destroy it by holding just a little too harshly.

Suddenly, I heard a door shut. It was a door I couldn’t see. I froze in place. “Sage, Sage, Sage. I should’ve guessed you were reaching that age. In fact, I thought you would never discover this place. All of the other ones found it after about thirteen years of life. I did think it was strange that you were four years late, but alas, you are here now.”

I turned toward Mother. “What is this place? Why did I never know about it?”

Mother pursed her lips. “It’s a garden. These things are flowers. I use it to disguise the scent in the room beyond. I presume you want to see that room, too?

I nodded. She took my hand, and pulled me around a corner and into a door. Suddenly, the sweet smell of the previous room became apparent as it was wiped out by the rancid one of this room.

This room contained a color I was more familiar with. Red. The color of blood. My heart pounded in my chest. “Goodnight, sweet Sage,” I heard behind before feeling a sharp pain stab into my neck, before everything became the same pitch as the rooms before these.

sage
Sage, by Sabrina Tellez

Night Terrors

5061 words. Luke is haunted by nightmares he can never seem to recall upon waking

I yawned a heavy yawn. It was about 10:30 at night, and I was exhausted. I had spent nine hours at school, doing extracurriculars. I wasn’t surprised that I was so tired. So, I decided I was ready for bed.

I went to the bathroom, brushed my teeth, and then went to bed. I hadn’t even gotten undressed before I felt my eyelids weigh down on me, and my consciousness faded into the night.

***

At around 3:00, I woke up unexpectedly. I wasn’t too surprised. I frequently woke up in the night. For the most part, I was just glad that I hadn’t woken up any earlier. That means that I got at least a few solid hours of sleep.

I got up and- with the help of my nightlight- maneuvered around my messy room to my door. I got out, went to the bathroom, and went back to my bed.

I knew it would be a bit before I fell asleep again, so I hoped that I would just bore myself back to sleep. I let myself drift into various thoughts.

I wonder what I’ll do tomorrow. It would be a Sunday, and I’m not very religious. I suppose I’ll just do a bit of housecleaning. I wish I had a roommate. It gets terribly lonely on my own, and that makes cleaning even more of a hassle, but it has to get done. I wonder when the last time I saw a friend outside of school? Well, there was that one dream I had. Although, I wasn’t very fond of it. I didn’t like dreaming about my friends stripping for a living. Haha, I actually had a dream where my best friend was a stripper. That’s entertaining. Although, I would rather call it a nightmare. No, nightmares are supposed to make you terrified of something. When was the last time I had a nightmare that actually terrified me? It has been a while. I think the last time it happened was nearly two years ago. I don’t remember what the nightmare was about, but I do know that I woke up terrified of turning on my phone. Mmm, my phone. I need to pay my bill tomorrow, too.

***

I woke up again at 3:47. I hadn’t been asleep long. That was disappointing, but not surprising. I didn’t need to use the bathroom again, so I got up and made myself some tea. That often helps me sleep.

Once again, I dodged around the clutter in my room, and my nightlight helped me see another time. Honestly, I think that light might have been my best purchase. I think it sees more use than any other light in my house.

I turned on my room light, so that I could see my hall light. Then, I turned on my hall light, so that I could turn on my kitchen light. I’d turn all of them off after I was ready to go to sleep again.

I put water into my kettle, then put it on the stove to boil. I had detached the whistle piece on my kettle, because it was hard to fall asleep after such a loud noise. I usually just watched the clock, and after a couple minutes I would take the kettle off the stove and pour myself a glass.

I yawned. I hated yawning. Why was it that I was tired, but had a hard time falling asleep? Insomnia is absolutely awful. I shook my head quickly, as if convincing myself to stay awake. My water must be ready by now.

I got up from my table, and checked the kettle. There was steam. That was good enough for me. I turned off my stove, took the kettle, and poured myself a cup. I took a tea packet and put it in the water. It would take another couple minutes for the tea to steep.

I sat and waited for the tea to steep. I laid my head on the table, and closed my eyes for a moment.

***

I woke up. I realised where I was. Startled, I looked for a clock. It was only 4:53. That wasn’t too bad. My tea was cold, though.

I took the tea bag out of the cup, and threw it away. I put my mug into the microwave, and microwaved my tea for 54 seconds. I stared at the timer until the last second, and then took my tea out. It was just warm enough to drink. I had done this many times over, so I knew that 54 seconds was the perfect amount of time to warm tea up.

I took a sip of the tea, and held it in my mouth. I loved the earthy taste. I swallowed. I tried to drink my tea quickly, and went back to bed, turning off all of my lights on the way. Well, except for my nightlight. That always stayed on.

***

I heard a strange, aggressive beat begin to play in my room. It felt like it was all around me, even though I hadn’t turned on any speakers. I was woken up by this disembodied music.

My eyesight was blank, though I knew for a fact that my eyes were open. This must mean…

My night light was off.

I panicked and tried to get to the plug my nightlight was usually plugged into. However, I couldn’t move. My breath didn’t change, but my mind was racing. All the while, the drum beat continued to blare around me in every direction.

I wanted to hyperventilate, but my body wouldn’t let me. I wanted to scream, but my body wouldn’t let me. I wanted to stand, but my body wouldn’t let me!

Slowly but surely, static began to rise around the loud music. It fluctuated volume at seemingly random intervals. Why was there static? Why were there drums? My eyes were the only thing I could control, and they were frantically searching the empty space in my sight.

Then words began to form through the static. They were hard to make out at first, but I understood what was being said. “YOU HAVE BEEN CHOSEN. YOUR SLEEPLESS NIGHTS WILL ATTEST THAT MY CHOICE FOR YOU IS CORRECT.” I still couldn’t see, and I still couldn’t move. My breath was steady and certain, but my eyes still searched for anything.

The voice still held strong, and it was getting clearer with every word. “YOU WILL DO AS I TELL YOU. WHEN YOU DO, THE WORLD WILL OPEN ITSELF TO YOU, AND YOU WILL RISE ABOVE YOUR PEERS.” I had never heard this voice ever before. What did the voice want?

“YOU HAVE SERVED WELL SO FAR. CONTINUE TO DO SO. LISTEN. OBEY. PROSPER.” The static faded out, and the drum beat followed quickly.

***

I woke up the next morning feeling a little beat. I can’t believe I actually fell asleep at my table again. And I think I might have had a nightmare, but I didn’t remember. I stretched as I stood up, and my back popped.

I got dressed, and then went to my kitchen. I poured myself a bowl of cereal. I groggily rubbed my eyes, then went back to my room to get my phone.

I pulled my phone from its charger, then turned it on as I walked back into the kitchen. I sat down at my table. My phone’s user interface loaded up, and then my phone immediately started to vibrate.

I unlocked my phone. All of the notifications were from Valerie, my friend. She wanted to know if I was busy today.

I text her back. “Not really. I was just going to do a bit cleaning if I didn’t feel too lazy.” I looked at the corner of my phone, and the clock said 7:24. That was good. I at least got a few more hours of sleep. I don’t know when I woke up last, though.

My phone shook in my pocket again. I looked at Val’s text. “Cool, I’ll be over in about an hour. Clean yourself up.”

I sighed. Well, at least I didn’t have to deal with awkward planning. I finished my breakfast, then took a quick shower.

I got out, got back into my clothes, and started drying off my hair as I walked out of the bathroom.

“Hey Lucas. Nice to see you’re not sleeping.”

I jumped back, and threw my towel into the kitchen. “Jesus, Val. You scared the hell out of me. I almost wish I hadn’t given you a key.” She laughed.

“Yeah, but then I’d just have to break in.” She winked. “You wouldn’t want that, would you?”

I took my turn to laugh. “Okay, you’re right. I wouldn’t want to get you arrested, at least.”

“Alright, let’s get going,” she proclaimed. I gave her an inquiring look. “Melanie’s new coffee shop opened today, remember? Let’s go greet her at her grand opening.” I nodded and put on my shoes.

We stepped outside and then got into her car. “So how has Melanie been?” I asked Val. I hadn’t seen Melanie in a bit, because she stopped doing theatre to pursue opening her coffee shop. I was still glad for her.

“Melanie was pretty stressed while trying to set up the place, but now that she’s finally opened up shop, she’ll probably be a lot more satisfied. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but she really tries to keep her problems to herself more often than she should. That makes me worry more than she wants me to.” She gave an ironic laugh. “Oh well.”

She turned and pulled into the parking lot of a small building. It was Melanie’s coffee shop. I stepped out of the car after Val parked. “Good for her. Well, let’s go.”

I stepped up to the door, and tried to open it. It didn’t open. “The door’s locked, Val.”

Val pulled on the handle opposite of the one I pulled. The door opened. “I think you’re just a fool.” We laughed.

“Come on in guys! What I can I get you?” Melanie greeted us with a smile and rosy cheeks. If I wasn’t gay, I’d definitely try to hit on her.

Val spoke up first “Hey Melanie. What do you recommend?”

“Well, I’d suggest some sea salt coffee. I found a recipe for it from another shop, and asked if I could make it.” Melanie was grinning widely the whole time.

“Sounds intriguing. I’ll take it. Luke, what do you want?” I looked at the menu. “I’ll just take a chai latte. I don’t really drink coffee. I have enough troubles sleeping as it is.” We all shared a chuckle.

“Coming right up you guys.” Melanie did a little curtsy, then started setting up some gear. I wasn’t very familiar with coffee shop tools.

Val and I sat down at the nearest table. There were some other people already in the shop. It looked like Melanie was going to see success from the very start.

“Hey Val, did I tell you I had a dream you were a stripper a couple nights ago?”

Val cackled loudly. “Oh my god, are you serious? That’s hilarious. That’s the funniest thing I’ve heard in a while. Did I look good?”

I chuckled. “Yeah. They had to stop me from dancing with you.”

She snickered some more. “Yeah, you definitely would be hard to keep from strutting your stuff.” 

Melanie came over with three cups. One must have been hers. “Here you guys are. One sea salt coffee and one chai latte. I hope you enjoy!” We thanked her, and she took the third cup to another patron. I guess she isn’t going to sit down with us. Oh well.

“Seriously, though, you have some weird dreams. Does insomnia make you remember your dreams more frequently?” I shrugged. “I don’t know about that, but I do think it makes me sleep in the lightest sleep state. That’s where you dream most often, so I guess that might make me remember my dreams more often.”

“Did you have a dream last night?” Val asked me.

“I don’t know. I might have had a nightmare, but I don’t remember very well. I did fall asleep at my table, however. I was making some tea, but fell asleep before drinking it. I woke up sometime later, and my tea was cold.” I took a sip of my drink. It was still too hot to drink fully.

“Wow. You hardly ever fall asleep at your table. That’s pretty nuts.” I shrugged. “I was probably just really tired last night, compared to usual. I usually don’t do that much heavy work.” She nodded.

“So, are you excited for our show?” I smiled and nodded excitedly. “You better believe I’m excited. I’ve been dreaming of this show for years.” She smiled. “Ah. That’s right. You certainly have idolised this show for quite a while. I’m glad you finally get to perform in it.”

“Thanks. It means something to hear you say that.”

She smiled at me. “Come on, let’s thank Melanie and then get out of here.”

***

I finally opened my door. Val kept me out of the house the entire day. I would need to check my mail tomorrow morning before I go to work.

None of my lights were on, so I had to turn on my phone’s flashlight to guide me to my room. I was already kind of tired- and had even bought some melatonin- so sleep should be even easier to achieve tonight, and it should be more consistent.

I turned on my room light once I stepped in. I opened up my bottle of melatonin, popped a supplement, and laid down in my bed.

I met a cute looking guy today at the coffee shop just a moment before I left. I wonder if he’d be into me? I would love to take him out, even if only once. Man, I haven’t dated since high school. It’s been at least five years since my last boyfriend. God, I guess I am kind of lonely. I think I might ask him if he’s gay tomorrow.

***

I woke up at 1:33. I think that means I was asleep for around 3 hours. Ugh. Well, maybe the melatonin actually worked better than I thought. Maybe it didn’t work at all. Either way, I decided I wasn’t going to get up.

I laid in bed. It felt too hot. So I threw the blanket off. But then, it felt too cold. So I threw one leg out from under the blanket. I wasn’t any more comfortable. I rolled onto my side. It didn’t feel much better.

I spent at least two hours just rolling around and failing to sleep.

***

My eyes fluttered open once more. I rubbed my eyes, and looked at the clock. It was 3:58. That’s wonderful.

I sat up. Maybe I should take some more melatonin? I shook my head. That seemed dangerous and unnecessary. I didn’t want to ruin myself more than I already had. I tossed the blanket back over myself, and rolled to the other side of my bed.

Melanie’s coffee shop is a pretty nice place. I’ll have to head over there and hang around more often. I wonder if she’ll do, like, some sort of membership or something so that we can get a discount, or points, or something. Ah, probably not yet. She’s still pretty early in her career. Either way, I’m certain everything will come together for her.

***

My eyes shot open. I couldn’t see anything. What happened to my nightlight? I panicked, and started searching every corner of my vision. There was nothing.

I tried to stand up. My body wouldn’t move. Shit! What’s going on? My heart was pounding out of my chest, but I don’t think it was out of fear. I think I was running.

I wanted to hyperventilate, but my body wouldn’t let me. I wanted to scream, but my body wouldn’t let me. I wanted to stop, but my body wouldn’t let me!

I could hear a harsh beat being played in my head. Underneath that, I heard shuffling. I think that shuffling was my feet. I was breathing quickly. I had to have been running.

Quickly, I heard static rise in volume. It fluctuated in the way that it sounded. After a couple seconds, I could make out a voice. “YOU HAVE MADE IT TO YOUR DESTINATION. GOOD. NOW, GET INSIDE.” I wasn’t sure what was going on. I still couldn’t see anything. All I knew was that I was no longer in control.

“WAIT. THERE IS NO ONE INSIDE. THERE IS NO NEED FOR YOU TO ENTER. RETURN TO YOUR HOME. WE WILL TRY AGAIN TOMORROW.”

***

I woke up feeling awfully sore. I must be in worse shape than I thought. No, that couldn’t be right. I did a lot of hard work on stage, and I wasn’t sore yesterday. There’s no way I’m that out of shape.

Either way, I got up. It was 5:56. That’s only a few minutes before my alarm goes off to wake me up for work. I guess four minutes will be enough time to try and stretch some of this stiffness away.

I got up- still in my sleep attire- went to my living room, and stretched. “God, I had to have done something really taxing last night. I don’t remember anything, though. Ah, whatever.” I dropped the topic, and went to the kitchen.

I made and ate breakfast quickly, then took a ten-minute shower, and finished my time at home by brushing my teeth. I tossed some shoes on, then went out to work.

“Wait,” I reminded myself. I almost forgot my mail. I braked my car. It was halfway out of my driveway. “My mailbox is right next to my door. How could I have forgotten?” I opened it up. It was empty. I shrugged, and got back into my car.

Work was incredibly uneventful. I work at a call center. My job is to make sure everyone else is answering their calls properly and gets the job done. You can imagine my enthusiasm.

Anyway, I got home at around 5:25. I realised I had left my phone at home that whole time, so when I got inside, my first plan was to get my phone and take a look at it.

I had received a few dozen notifications. 8 were from a couple games I played. 3 were emails. 25 were missed calls and texts from Val. My eyes widened, and I called her back.

“Hey, Val, are you doing alright?” I was freaking out, but I tried to hold my composure.

“Jesus Christ- Luke! Why didn’t you reply any sooner?” I couldn’t see her, but I imagine she was tearing out her own hair

“Sorry, I turn my phone off at night to help me sleep. Then, I forgot it at home this morning. What’s wrong?”

“Fuck, I’m pretty scared. My neighbor told me that they saw someone walk up to my window with a rock, before putting it down and running away. That was at five in the morning. I was only lucky that I had drunkenly spent the night at a friend’s house. I’m freaking out right now.” I could hear her quickened breath.

“What do you need, Val?”

“I need you to come over and stay the night with me. You wake up all the time at night, anyway. So if someone comes over in the middle of the night, you can just be up and fend them off for me. I can’t stay at other people’s house for weeks on end.” She was speaking very fast. I could hear fear in her voice. It quivered with every word that came out of her mouth. She could very well be near tears.

“Alright, I’ll come over in a couple hours. I just have to do a few important things here first. If you’d like, you could come over during that time.”

I heard a slight rubbing on her phone. She must have been nodding. “Yeah, okay. I’ll be over in a few minutes.”

“Okay. I love you, Valerie. Stay safe,”

“Love you too. Luke.” She hung up.

***

I parked behind Valerie’s car. We were at her house. She did show up to my house, like she said she was going to. I think she went double the speed limit to come over to my house even faster than usual. She’s lucky she wasn’t pulled over.

“Alright. What window did he try to get in through?” She showed me the window, then went inside. I followed her.

“So where do you think I should sleep in order to properly protect you?” Val’s hands were shaking.

“Just come sleep in my bed with me. I- I think that would be the best option.” I nodded at her, then pulled her close to me.

“You’ll be okay, Val. The person at the window couldn’t have been much more than a burglar. They probably thought they had been seen, and they probably left. You’ll be fine. I’m here for you.” She was crying in my arms. I played my hands through her hair. “Shhhhh. You’ll be alright.”

It was already 9:04. Val was exhausted, so she headed off to bed. I accompanied her to her room. She got dressed, laid down, and I did the same. “Goodnight, Val.”

“Goodnight, Luke.” She was still trembling.

***

I woke up once more at 11:43. It was the earliest I had woken up in at least five nights. I sighed. My bladder felt full, so I got up and went to the bathroom. I went back to bed, and fell asleep rather quickly.

***

My eyes stayed shut, but I felt awake. I scrunched my eyes closed further, but to no avail. I sighed, and got up. The clock on Val’s nightstand said the time was 12:43. Neat.

I got out of bed, and looked at all of Val’s windows. They were perfectly intact, and perfectly locked. Her door was still closed, and her lock was still stable. Nothing as of yet. I went back up to her room, and laid down.

Val. Poor girl. She was diagnosed with paranoia at a very young age. I was honestly surprised. This was her first anxiety attack in a year or two. She had held together really well before now. It was probably going to take months to convince her that she’d be fine on her own again. I’d probably have to sleep with her for that whole time to keep her stable.

***

2:10. I rubbed my eyes. I was probably waking up even more than usual due to stress. God, I’m probably going to die in my forties because of sleep deprivation. I rolled over and tried to get back to sleep.

This process is taking a lot longer than I wish it would. I wish that tonight could just be over. I wish her neighbor hadn’t said anything. God, I wish a lot of things. Either way, I’m here now. If only I had thought to bring the melatonin.

***

I woke up on the floor. I had rolled off of the bed. Everything that was sore earlier felt even worse now.

Stiffly, I pulled myself up. It was 3:17. I think I was asleep for around thirty minutes. God, I have work tomorrow morning. Maybe I’ll call my boss, tell him what’s going on. He might be understanding. Push comes to shove, I’ll offer a couple of favors.

I went downstairs and checked on all of the windows and doors again. There was nothing. Everything was still in place, and everything was still in perfect condition. There weren’t even any scratches.

I went back upstairs and went to bed. I hoped to fall asleep quickly.

***

I sat at the foot of the bed. It was 4:47. I hadn’t fallen asleep since my last wake up. I was beginning to think that I wasn’t going to get back to sleep. I felt miserable. I had to keep Val safe, but I also needed to sleep. I had poor sleeping habits as it already was.

I stayed at the foot of the bed. I had brought a few packs of tea, and had made myself three glasses already. I was drinking my fourth. I sighed again. I’m staying awake, I guess. I got my phone out of my pants lying on the floor, and turned it on.

It slowly turned on. Once it was done, I dialed my boss’ number. He didn’t pick up. Of course not, it was 4:50. “Hey, Mr. Maubree. I can’t make it to work tomorrow. My friend Valerie had someone try to break into her house yesterday morning. She was diagnosed with paranoia quite some time ago, so I’m trying to keep her safe. Anyway, I’m staying at her house. I haven’t slept very well because of the stress. So, I’ll do whatever you need later to make up for this. Sorry. Bye.” I ended the message. I think I’ll be fine.

I put my tea glass on the floor and laid back onto the bed. Ugh.

***

I couldn’t see anything. All I knew was that there was a quiet drum beat playing in the background. I started to feel scared. I knew my eyes were open, but nothing entered my retinas. I tried to push my hands up to my eyes, but to no avail. I had heard of sleep paralysis before. Maybe this was that?

I still felt uneasy, even after justifying that in my head. I had never had sleep paralysis before. What could be going on?

The drumbeat rose in volume. It sounded like someone made of pure fury was just banging on the drums, playing the angriest beat he knew how. As the drums grew louder, a small sound of static followed.

Am I having a nightmare? Probably not, considering that thought.

At one point the drums reached their top volume. However, the static still rose to match. Eventually, the static reached its maximum, and a voice could be heard through it, but only by barely.

“RISE, MY SUBJECT.” I felt my body stand. Suddenly, I knew where everything on me was. However, my eyes were still shut and there was nothing I could do to stop myself from moving.

I wanted to hyperventilate, but my body wouldn’t let me. I wanted to scream, but my body wouldn’t let me. I wanted to stop, but my body wouldn’t let me!

“GET A DEVICE. YOU KNOW EXACTLY WHAT TO DO. THIS ISN’T YOUR FIRST TIME.” I felt myself begin walking, and was eventually walking down stairs. What was going on?

I felt myself walking still. Then, I felt an object in my hand. It was a handle, and had to belong to a drawer. I pulled on it, then took something else out of the drawer. It was also a handle, but I think it belonged to some sort of cutlery.

Oh god. Do I have a knife? Oh god. No. No. NO NO NO!

I was walking again. I went back upstairs. The sounds of static and drums continued to beat in my ears. I decided to focus on just my eyes. I had to be able to do something to let myself see.

I tried pulling back my eyelids. I tried looking in every corner of my vision. There was no effect.

“GOOD. NOW FINISH WHAT YOU HAVE SET OUT TO DO.”

I felt my arm raise above my waist. I started flitting my eyes in every direction as frantically as I could.

VAL! WAKE UP! VALERIE! RUN AWAY!

I could hear her breath, faintly. Her sweet and soft air barely being heard through the angry drummer and static.

“YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO. NOW IS THE TIME.”

I felt my arm lower down. I was pressing the knife against her throat.

“NO!” Val screeched through the drums and static.

“NOW IS THE TIME! DO IT!” The voice shook all of my senses. My eyes opened.

I slid the knife through Valerie’s throat. She started a shriek, but it quickly was replaced by gurgling and blood.

“THE HEART!” The voice roared through me once more. I saw my hand move down her chest. I cut open her shirt, and cut off her bra.

I watched my hands force the knife through her chest, and tear her open.

I watched my hands greedily reach inside her.

I watched my hands use the knife to cut out her heart. Blood gushed out of her chest and neck, and rushed over her exposed breasts.

I watched my right-hand tear through Valerie’s heart, and my left hand lift it out of her chest.

I watched myself stand over her body.

I watched my hands use the knife to pin her heart to the wall above her bed.

“YOU HAVE DONE WELL LUCAS. THIS WILL BE YOUR LAST VISIT FROM ME.” The voice wasn’t nearly as jarring, and the drums began to fade away. “IN YOUR NEXT LIFE I WILL SEE YOU BECOME A PRINCE.” The static began to disappear.

“NOW YOU MAY REST.” The static was gone, and so was my consciousness.

***

I woke up. I sat up and stretched, my eyes still closed.

I opened my eyes and looked at my hands. They were… covered…

With blood.

I screamed, and frantically looked around. I saw Val. “NO!” Val’s clothes were torn open, and her blood covered her chest, neck, face, and the bed around her.

I picked her up and held her in my arms. “Val, did I fail to save you? Is this my fault?” I was crying.

I looked up and screamed. Suddenly my eyesight was caught. I saw her heart on the wall above us.

“V-V-Valerie… I- I think I killed you…”

I stumbled over to my clothing on the floor. My phone was lying on my pants, where I had left them last night.

I dialed three digits. My fingers left stains on my phone. “Hello, this is 911, what is your emergency?” I looked at a clock. It was 10:32.

“I… Help me.” I dropped the phone. I fell to my knees, and began to wail.