Vivian couldn’t sleep. Her eyes felt heavy in the midnight darkness of her room. This was the third time this week she couldn’t sleep. The gentle whirring of her clock would usually comfort her on nights like these, but its usual lullaby was now starting to put her on edge. It’s not something she could help. For a long time now she’d been an anxious, mopey wreck. This was just her life now. It was a slow descent that ended in a headfirst plunge. Her therapist told her that these thoughts were because of anxiety and depression. A lot of it had to do with other people. For some reason other people’s actions and opinions would make her panic.
This was the one place she felt really whole. It was a place she felt like she wasn’t being watched, a place that she could really call home. Whenever she was in a crowd, it felt like all eyes were on her. She thought that they were silently judging her. Everything from her personality to her appearance were criticized. It made her feel like a freak and she hated herself for it. The first time she knew something was wrong was on the first day of her Junior year.
Vivian went to a large school with hundreds of students enrolled in her grade alone. On the first day Vivian felt a burning deep inside her. It made her shudder to think that even one person here was judging her. The burning was something that she could never explain, but it brought her usual uneasiness with it. Her hands began to shake subtly, not enough for others to notice, but she worried others would. Throughout the day she just didn’t feel like she could confidently open up to other people. Most of her introductions were bland and to the point.
“My name is Vivian, nice to meet you.”
She said nothing about her love for art and poetry, or how much she loved the feeling of a cool breeze on her face on a hot summer’s day. She didn’t even mention how she really felt about the world, about how we treat each other, about how she wanted things to be. She knew these weren’t conventional icebreakers, but these were things that she had bottled up inside for so long that she forgot how good it felt to let them go.
She wasn’t always like this. Vivian used to be an energetic girl. She used to love life and not care what others thought about her. Most of that came from her best friend. Abbie was her everything. She was a rock for her when no one else was there. She was the shoulder to cry on. She was the friend to laugh with. She was the beacon of hope that Vivian needed to get through a hard day. Her optimism always astounded Vivian. How she could always look on the bright side of things and forget about the bad.
“If you spend your time worrying about things you’ll never move forward, you know? I know it’s hard to let go of things sometimes, but you just have to. You’ve always got to have hope that things will get better. Otherwise what’s the point of getting up in the morning? Enjoy the little things, Vi. Enjoy how crispy that bacon is on your plate. Enjoy the beautiful sunrise and sunset each day. You have to love this life, Vi. You have to love yourself.”
Abbie passed away a few years ago. It was unexpected. Her death practically crushed Vivian. That last shining beacon of hope in her light was snuffed out far too soon. So soon that Vivian never really got to tell Abbie how she felt about her. It was too late to tell her that Abbie was much more to her than a friend. To Vivian, Abbie was her everything. She was her sun and her moon, her entire world. Worst of all, Abbie left before Vivian could tell her the most important thing. Abbie was the love of her life. Until she met her, Vivian never thought she could feel as warm as she did when Abbie was around. But Abbie was gone now and the only thing of the light of her life was cinders and ash.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw something move across her window. It was the shadow of something, but she didn’t make out the shape. Vivian thought it was a bird, but that burning feeling came up in her gut again. Maybe someone was watching her. She realized how illogical that was and tried to focus on her thoughts again. Her therapist had told her to recognize the irrationality of her self-deprecating thoughts. It was a tool to cope with them, but ended up making her question all of her thoughts.
This was her usual routine. Whenever things got too good in her life, she’d beat herself down again, back to the level she thought she deserved. It never made her sad or envious of others. It left her in a state of hopelessness. Occasionally her thoughts would drift to the knife in her drawer. It was a gift from her uncle, who was an avid hunter and outdoorsman. It was a gift he gave her on her 16th birthday as well as a copy of Sea Wolf by Jack London, her uncle’s hero. He told her that sometimes we have to make hard choices to stay alive. Ironic, she thought, considering what she was thinking of using it for. Her uncle had raised her since she was ten years old, when her mother left her life. It was years after her father’s death. Her mother was clearly still distraught. Vivian never even met the man. One night, while Vivian was barely asleep, she saw her mother’s silhouette near the foot of her bed. Her mother walked slowly towards her and laid a kiss on her forehead.
“It’s time for me to go, sweety. Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine. Just please, promise me something. Promise me that you’ll learn to forgive me,” she said in a solemn whisper.
Vivian nodded as her mother walked again towards the door. She stopped right before the doorway and smiled. Vivian could barely make it out in the darkness, but a single tear streaked across her cheek. She placed a letter on her bedstand and told her to only open it when she knew the time was right. That time still hadn’t come.
Before she left she said three last words to Vivian: “My little princess”.
That was the last time she saw her mother. Her memories of her mother were vague, but there was still an outline of what she must have been like that formed in her mind. She was kind, always willing to stand up for herself and others. She was beautiful. If there was anything that Vi remembered about her was her radiance. That beauty only came to Vivian in parts, but she would never look as stunning as her mother did in her prime. There were always whispers from family members, who thought they couldn’t be heard, that Vivian’s mother carried around a dark secret. Her cousin Jason approached her one Christmas Eve and asked her if it was true that her mother was a witch. Vivian denied even the possibility, but when Jason insisted. Vivian could feel the tears beginning to well up in her eyes when her uncle stepped into the room and asked Jason to leave. Her uncle sat next to her and consoled her. He wrapped his arm around her shoulder and before he knew it, Vivian hugged him.
“Everything’ll be alright, Vi. You have me now. I’m here for you,” he said with the pale light from inside illuminating his aging face on that dark December night.
Ever since the day her mother left, Vivian had been raised by her uncle. He was always supportive of her and encouraged her to pursue her dreams, but he was no substitute for her mother. She still loved him with all her heart, but there was still an emptiness inside her that wasn’t filled until she met Abbie. Watching that hole start to heal, only for it to be ripped open again was something that she couldn’t bear. That night was rife with these thoughts. Thoughts about how she couldn’t lose anyone again. How the next time would really kill her. She pushed others away to keep herself from hurting anymore. After all, sometimes we have to make hard choices to stay alive.
Even after that night with Jason, there were still rumors about her mother. Vivan would often hear them talking about her mother when she wasn’t in the room. Vivian’s aunt believed she had joined some kind of cult. Her evidence for this was Vivian’s mother’s fascination with magic and spirituality. Her mother was considered by a lot of people to be a spiritual woman, but not in the traditional sense. Vivian’s mother’s interests were more occult. A few months after her death, Vivian’s aunt found a notebook with notes and scribblings of things that the family could barely understand. She did mention that there was a recurring phrase in the notebook. “The Night of Crimson”.
Sometimes Vivian thought about the letter. It sat unopened in her desk drawer. The losses in her life made her too hesitant about opening it. Whenever she would think about reading it, the few remaining memories she had left of her mother would become overwhelming. She couldn’t move on. Vivian didn’t think she’d ever be able to open the letter.
She heard a shallow scuttling across her bedroom floor and assumed it was her cat. But again, the burning came up inside her again. Maybe someone was inside the house. Again she tried to challenge those thoughts by telling herself how unlikely it was. That rustling was too quiet to be a burglar or any human for that matter. Vivian focused on the gentle ticking of her clock and tried to let it rock her to sleep. It was meditative, almost hypnotic. She let her feelings of uneasiness wash away and focused on sleep. She turned in her bed to have her body face towards the ceiling.
Although her eyes were closed she could swear she could almost make out a figure in the darkness. It was instinctive and primal, a sort of lingering fear that was festering inside her. It was a sensation she couldn’t shake. Again, she tried to argue against those thoughts, but something was wrong. The burning was still there. It was getting worse by the second and there was nothing she could do to stop it. Then, in the darkness for a brief moment she heard raspy and pained breathing coming from above her. It sounded like a dying animal.
Vivian slowly opened her eyes to see a veiny, thin hand stretching into her vision. Her eyes widened immediately as she began to see the creature above her come into full view. It was emaciated and scarred all over its body. The thing wore rusted, beaten armor and carried a gnawed club in its left hand. The creature’s face couldn’t be made out in the darkness, but as soon as she opened her eyes the thing began to scurry towards her. It crawled from the ceiling to the wall beside her as she threw herself out of bed and run towards the door. It started to pursue her, now crawling in jagged movements from the wall to the floor. Vivian tried to open the door, but it was jammed.
The rattling of the door knob filled her with dread. She hadn’t locked it last night, and her uncle hadn’t either. Then why wouldn’t the door budge? The creature paused for a moment. It circled around her with short, predatory steps. Vivian glanced to her right and left to try and find another way out. That’s when she saw the open window. She bolted to it as the creature crawled over her bed and began get closer. As she was about to reach the window a veiny hand grabbed top of the window sill and pulled itself into Vivian’s room. Just as that thing became fully visible, she heard a rumbling in her closet as three more of the creatures spewed out of it with clubs in hand.
She felt a cold, tight grip around her ankle. One of the things had grabbed onto it. She picked up her foot and tried to kick the monster, but all it did was make its grip tighter. More began to grab onto her as she screamed in the darkness. They knocked her to the ground and piled on top of her. They pinned her arms and legs to the ground. Vivian struggled desperately to free herself, but the creatures were stronger than they looked. She jerked her body across her floor, but kept feeling them clinging to her. The door opened with an ominous. A hooded figure with a staff began to sag towards her. Its movements were troubled and odd. Its torso would lean forward as it dragged its lower body along with it afterwards.
She screamed again, but felt the one of the creatures put it’s cold, grey hand on her mouth. The hooded figure eventually arrived and stopped in front of her. It raised its wooden staff into the air as more creatures appeared from behind it. They all piled on top of her. One by one they charge towards her and blocked out her vision of the room. She couldn’t breathe. The pressure on her chest was building as the hooded figure’s chanting grew louder and more frantic. Soon Vivian’s vision went black. The chanting grew dimmer.
And then there was nothing. Not a sound, or sight, or smell anywhere around her. She was surrounded by blackness with nothing but her thoughts. Vivian desperately tried to figure out what was going on, but had no idea. Was she dead? Was she dreaming? Had she gone insane? All of these thoughts rushed through her mind, but eventually she heard a voice that was indistinguishable from her own.
It said that this was real.
The blackness turned to grey. Vivian’s surroundings were becoming more clear to her as time went on. She could see the grey liquid that she was surrounded in start to bubble around her. Vivian struggled in a groggy haze to get out of the water, but she was surrounded on all sides by a thin, paper-like wall. She could only see the silhouettes of the things around her lumbering across the wall. Vivian dug her nails into the walls and made a way out for herself. The walls ripped open with barely any effort. Water began to rush out of the thin walls of her container and it spilled onto the floor. Vivian slid out the hole, encased in the viscous liquid. She gasped for air as her lungs began to expand for what felt like the first time in years. She rolled onto her back to see a ripped sac that looking almost like an egg behind her. There were other people in the sacks next to her, but their figures were distorted.
Some were bloated with protrusions coming from their forehead. Others were covered with stunted and malformed limbs. She sat there, awestruck at what she was seeing. Ordinarily she would be questioning if what she was seeing was actually happening, but the burning feeling in her gut told her otherwise. This felt more real to her than anything she had experienced in her life. It was as if before her mind had been clouded by something. But now she knew the truth. Her surroundings still terrified her. As she pushed herself up to try to walk away, she fell immediately to the floor. Her legs felt weak and buckled whenever she tried to stand. Vivian cursed to herself as she tried to stand, but fell every time.
Vivian then did the only thing she could do. She crawled. Vivian crawled towards the closest source of light she could see. The light was odd to her. It didn’t look like a candle or light bulb from this distance. Its color was too red and its glow was too dim. Nevertheless she crawled towards it. Each meter took more energy out of her than she thought possible. She crawled through the gelatinous slime that surrounded her. She shivered as she felt the rock-like bumps of the surface below her. Soon enough she reached the source of the light. It was a bulb of light that was surrounded in a thin covering of skin. The walls were covered in a pink and red slabs of meat that seemed to connect to each other seamlessly, like the walls themselves were a living organism. A white substance that looked like the fat on a steak leaked from the walls above it when she arrived, dimming its light even more. Vivian pushed her body away from the light source. As she turned on her side, she saw another bulb light up further down the corridor. As she crawled further down the dark corridor she could feel bumps in the ground below her that felt like veins to her. She tried to ignore how disgusted she was with her surroundings. She kept her emotions bottled in fear that the figures she had seen before would come for her. She pressed herself further down the corridor until she reached the next light. The fat seeped down and dimmed the light again, just as it had before.
Vivian heard what sounded like a church choir echoing throughout the fleshy halls. The deep sound of an organ was ringing in her ears. She crawled towards it, hoping to gain even a semblance of an idea of what was going on. As she crawled and crawled through the corridor, the burning in her gut was growing. The sensation was starting to overwhelm her. It felt almost immobilizing. The singing of the choir was getting louder as the fire in her gut spread. Her surroundings began to fade around her as an overwhelming light began to shine in front of her. The singing voices of an endless choir reverberated in her dark hallway until she finally reached its end. Vivian heard the singing of thousands of those monsters and saw their decaying bodies struggle to stay in tune. Some even collapsed in exhaustion. Despite all that, the singing was wondrous. It was like the voices of millions of angels were coming from the demons below her, beckoning her deeper into the fleshy chasm. Dozens of the hooded figures she had seen before were directing their chanting with the fervor of a composer. They were shrouded now in white robes, only slightly stained by the blood and grey liquid below them. The singing chimed one last time as the red bulbs from before began to light from behind the shrouded figures. Then the crowd was silent. A new figure came into view.
An amorphous blob of grey, decaying flesh came into view. Broken bones littered the pile of human remains that sat on a throne of gold and ivory. Before she knew what she was doing, Vivian began crawling towards it. No, she wasn’t crawling towards it. The flesh below her was moving her towards it. Vivian had lost all of her strength, trying to crawl away just made the flesh slide faster towards the throne. It felt like all eyes were on her as her limp body moved towards the thing that sat in front of her. It was a silent, sullen journey to the terrifying figure in front of her. A polished skull sat on top the pile of flesh.
As Vivian finally reached the foot of the throne, the skull began to turn itself towards her until it was almost staring her in the eye. A third eye opened on the skull’s forehead. It blinked and the color of its eyes changed from a pale white to a deep, murky grey. It stared directly at her. It did not speak to her, but as it gleamed at her, she began to grasp what it wanted. The thought was almost forced into her attention. It was in her thoughts. She could feel its presence within her mind. Each thought that it guided felt tainted, almost repugnant, to her. The thought came to her. The thing’s thought came to her.
“Do not fret, child. Royal blood runs through your veins. Have courage like your ancestors before you. You will be their Monarch, a prophet for these people. Lead them in their despair. Suffer so these lowly creatures can feel their burden be released. Suffer so you can set them free. Suffer, for you are our queen. Our queen of the scarlet nights and scorched earth.”
The pile of flesh raised itself up towards her. Bones began to emerge from the rotten flesh of the monster. It slowly made its way towards her, dragging its entrails behind it. Vivian tried to crawl away but the floor pushed her closer to the thing. The creatures in their rusted armor began to surround her. They crawled on top of each other to get a better view of what was to come. They fought savagely, like they were wild animals fighting over food. Soon the monarch was within arm’s length of her. It crawled on top of her, its decaying flesh dragging along her body. It grabbed her with its bony arms and raised its head.
“I anoint her with the blood of the first being, the primordial ancestor from whence we spawned. Gods, guide her hand, as she is our queen of sorrow. She sits on a throne of despair.”
Vivian screamed as the thing pulled itself closer to her. It now rested its hands on her cheeks. The choir began to sing again, this time in an even more joyous voice. The viscous, grey slime seeped from the monarch and poured onto her. She kept screaming as it poured its way into her lungs. She couldn’t see a thing except the foggy liquid that surrounded her. Vivian's breath left her and the world around her started to fade away. Soon blackness completely surrounded her. She was left alone again in the darkness.
Vivian raised her head from her pillow. She struggled to get up, even with her alarm clock blaring. Her breathing was slow and shallow. She pulled herself out of bed and tried moving her legs. They worked fine. She walked over to the alarm clock and shut it off. Vivian walked to her bathroom and looked in the mirror. As she looked in the mirror she looked into the bloodshot eyes of her reflection. Her mind was almost blank. Vivian was trying to process what had happened to her. She began to cough uncontrollably. She couched into the sink and closed her eyes. She rested her arm on the marble counter-top of the sink, then rested her forehead on top of her forearm.
As she looked up into the sink she saw the grey liquid from her dream in the sink with specks of blood littered throughout it. She stood there in silence as the slime and blood trickled into the drain. Vivian did not scream. She did not cry. She stood there in silence with hands pressed against her temples. After a while, Vivian looked up in the mirror again to see some of the liquid seeping from the corner of her mouth. She wiped it away with the back of her palm and headed into her bedroom. She knew exactly what to do. The thought came to her while she was in the bathroom. Again, the thought felt tainted and forced. It told her to check the letter her mother had left her all those years ago. Vivian put down the letter and sat on her bed. Just then, she felt an odd sensation coming from her lower legs. She rolled up the pants of her legs to see the grey spots across her calves. When she put her hand on them, they felt ice cold. Vivian tried pressing them with her finger and it felt like touching a pillow. She opened the letter with shaky hands, her heart thumping within her chest. She opened it and read through her mother’s messy handwriting.
Honey, you’re the light of my life and I know you’re going to hate me for this. Hopefully you’ve opened this at the right time. I know you must still be mad that I left you, sweetie, but I had no other choice. I got mixed up in some things that I can’t get out of. I made mistakes, honey. I just need to reap what I sow, so to speak. You’re not going to believe me until it's too late, I know, but I hope you take my advice. I’ve been having these dreams lately. They seem so lifelike to me that I can’t even tell when they begin and when they end. But I know they’re real. I’ve seen what’s been happening to me these past few years and I know what’s coming. It starts out slow. It’s just one dream that seems to bizarre to be true. Eventually they come more frequently. They come enough that it occupies your every thought. I don’t want to get into details, but they’re bad. I’ve tried everything to get rid of them, but they never go away.
I’ve even tried some unconventional things; things I’m not proud of. They don’t work. The only way it says I can stop them is just by giving up. I know it’s going to be hard for you to understand, but I’m so tired, honey. I don’t think I can go on much longer like this. Whatever it is, I know one thing: It feeds on sadness. Whatever it is, it takes you when you’re at your lowest lows and drags you down farther. It wants me to sit on that throne and become whatever it is that’s sitting on it now. I can already start to feel my body changing. I’ve made a habit of wearing long pants to hide the fact that my legs are starting to decay. This morning I found a bone jutting out of my leg. The thing that scared me most was that it felt natural like that. When I tried to fit it back into place, it was one of the most painful things I’ve experienced in my life. The dreams first came to me a few years after your father died, when you were just a baby. Back in my prime I was probably the happiest person I knew, but now I can barely remember a time I was happy recently. As far as I know, once the dreams start, they can’t be stopped. I’m worried that once they’re done with me, they’ll come for you. So that’s why I’m trying to get as far away from you as possible. So please, just promise me you’ll live a happy life. Promise me you’ll move on after I’m gone or after anyone’s passed for that matter. Remember the good things in this life. And most importantly always look forward. Don’t make the same mistakes I did. Please, if you can just do one last thing for me, Vivian. Please, just be happy. Remember you’ll always be my little princess.
Written by The Damn Batman