Growing up, I knew very little about my mother's side of the family. They had basically disowned her after she decided to do the unthinkable and go to medical school in a time where (particularly in the deep, rural south) women would never be doctors. My relatives were scowling faces that wandered in and out of holiday gatherings, pausing just long enough to pass judgement and leave my dad outraged for about a week.
The only one out of the mob that really made an impression was my mom's older sister. This woman sent me acne medication for my birthday one year when I had started that awkward break-out phase. She once lectured me for twenty minutes about how, since I had inherited my mom's desire to work when I got older, no man would ever love me. I was ten.
I only give you this background so that you'll understand how unsettling it was when my grandmother called my mom one evening and asked her to fly down there to see them. My aunt had experienced what they called a "severe psychotic break" or something along those lines, and none of the relatives knew what to do. Or had the money to do it. My mother dutifully packed her things and I was somehow swept along for the ride. I was only fourteen at the time and still hadn't perfected the art of saying no to my parents.
The best thing about that age was that because I was awkward and mousy, people tended to ignore my existence. I got to sit in while the grandparents told my mom everything they knew about this breakdown and mom stressed over and over that she wasn't a psychiatrist. My aunt's latest ex was a meth dealer. Who knew what kind of stuff they had been brewing and sampling. There were also probably diet pills. She'd become obsessed with Ouija boards. Depression runs in the family. She was always a little off. Etc. Etc. Etc.
All they knew was that after her work had called them asking for her, they'd found her completely naked in her living room, curled up and talking to herself. She had covered pages and pages of notebooks with nonsensical symbols and equations about gods and demons.
With few other options in BFE Georgia, my grandparents had locked my aunt up in the guest room and called my mother. Once again insisting that she was not a psychiatrist, my mom told my grandparents that they had to get my aunt sent to some kind of hospital where she could get the proper care and in the meantime they needed the supplies to hold them over while they decided what to do. Mom called in some prescriptions and got ready to head into town.
Unfortunately, the downside to being fourteen is that you're old enough to be expendable and somehow in the shuffle I was assigned the task of waiting at the house with my aunt and making sure nothing happened while they were gone. Mom promised they wouldn't be long and assured me waiting at home was better than being trapped on the hour-long drive into town with my grandmother.
Many Southerners will tell you that not all of the South is barren fields and terrifying locals. Some parts have amazing natural beauty. This is completely true and anyone close-minded enough to bypass an entire section of the countryside based on stereotyping is really missing out. Unfortunately, this house was not located in any of those ares. This was miles of red clay, tobacco crops, pine trees, power lines, the family house, me, and my batshit aunt in the back room. There was no cable, no internet, and next-to-no cell reception.
I was stuck listening to my CD player and playing Tetris on the couch, counting the agonizing minutes until my mom came back. Because time moved so slowly out there, I can't really tell you when I was clubbed from behind.
The thud was dull but the pain exploded in the back of my skull. I used to think that cartoon characters seeing stars was just a cutesy animation, but I swear my vision erupted into different colors as I tried to regain my senses. I didn't drop like people in the movies do, though. I was vaguely aware of someone grabbing my arms and dragging me from the sofa to the chair. I even stumbled a little in response.
Unfortunately, the static wouldn't clear enough for me to stop them as my hands were tied to the arms with something thin enough to cut. It was only after my midsection had been bound and my throat was well on its way that I snapped to. I rocked my head back and forth to get away, but it was no good. What I now realized was brown twine was roped around my neck to keep me upright. I can't look at the stuff anymore without itching.
Her work momentarily finished, my aunt moved around the chair to face me. She'd never been an attractive person, but at that point she looked like topless holy hell. The meth had left her with open sores, some of which she had scratched into ragged, weeping holes. Her arms were covered in blackening holes all oozing rot. When she grinned, I got a good look at the infamous meth mouth. I can't even describe the smell. That wasn't just from her wounds, either. She had caked shit all over her legs, up to the scratches around her sagging breasts. But the worst part was the strange glint in her eyes.
There was someone home up there, but it was more feral than person.
When my eyes locked on hers, she grabbed a bit of her short blonde hair and tugged hard enough for her eyebrows to raise. "You see this? They say I can take your hair for myself."
Panic was finally starting to register as I realized what the hell was happening. Too tiny to be much of a fighter, I mostly just started hyperventilating and staring. I remember realizing that I couldn't remember the word for what Indians used to do to their war victims, but it was definitely about to happen to me. I started squeaking a little and trying to yell out as she disappeared into the kitchen for a moment and reappeared with a knife.
Thankfully, she just grabbed a clump of my long brown hair and started trying to saw it off inches off my scalp. It still hurt enough for me to finally cry out over it. Likely unsatisfied with her results thanks to a dull knife and thick hair, her attention turned back to my face.
"That's nothing," she hissed.
From behind my back she produced a hammer - probably what she had hit me with in the first place. The next swing brought it down on my left index finger. The fingernail cracked from the strength of the blow. My sobbing only made my aunt laugh harder and she tossed aside her tangles of hacked-off hair in favor of digging out the nail pieces and ripping them away one-by-one. The pain was so bad I nearly threw up.
This process repeated for the middle finger and my thumb, though for some reason the thumb took three swings to crack, thanks to the odd angle it was at. I vaguely noticed something through the pain as she yanked the left bit of nail from the bed: her head was tilted slightly and her mouth was hanging open. She was listening to something.
She finally stopped picking at my fingernails and leaned over to take my index into her mouth to suck on. My mind started desperately pulling itself together. I had to get out of there, but there was no way out. No matter how much I screamed, no one was around for miles. I had to survive long enough for my mother to get home. What if this lunatic killed my mother, though? Somehow, I choked out some version of, "Why are you doing this?"
My aunt looked up from where she was sucking and narrowed her eyes, as if indignant that I had interrupted her. She sat up and proceeded to spit some of the blood she'd been drinking into my face.
"They chose you. And I hate you!"
At this point, she started ranting. I wish I could reproduce exactly what she said, but the details are blurred - half because this memory was so diligently repressed for so long and half because none of it made any sense at all. It was something about a dark lord and people in the walls, but there was also talk of the government and radio waves. What I do recall is that she paused and leaned in so close that our noses were nearly touching. The smell of her breath was so horrible I could taste it in my mouth.
"I know," she whispered. "You can smell my brain rotting. But let me tell you. He's not joking. He wants your skin. They all want your cunt."
Her tongue stretched out of her mouth and wormed itself over the lower half of my face.
I started sobbing and gagging at this point. She tried to get her tongue into my mouth but I spat at her, which enraged her. She screamed at me to be quiet and swung the hammer at my mouth. One of my front teeth hit the floor and the others weren't in much better shape. My memory is fuzzy from here on out, mostly a blur of fear and pain. I was completely sure I was going to die an agonizing death and the blood loss now occurring didn't do anything for my thinking.
I was aware of her shuffling away. I know she returned. My next clear memory is of her using a marker on the old wood floor to reproduced what I recognized as a Ouija board.
Only half the letters were actually letters. The rest were twisted symbols that must have made sense in her addled mind. However, the standard "Hello" and "Goodbye" were obvious enough for the connection to be made in my head. My aunt took great care in creating this, focusing like a preschooler with some sort of demonic macaroni art. The whole time, she muttered to herself, but I never caught a clear sentence out of this. Using a glass coaster as a planchette, she set to work summoning something.
By this point, I was silent... save for the sucking of air in through the new gap in my mouth. The room had gone completely still.
Nothing happened for several moments. The atmosphere was suffocating as every nerve in my body stood on edge. Without warning, the coaster slid to its first destination, making a screech as the wood scraped against the glass. I couldn't keep track of what it was spelling out and the nonsense symbols made it all the more difficult, but my aunt watched closely and nodded sagely every so often.
I tried to figure out if it was just my imagination that made it look like the coaster was moving without prodding from her fingertips. The dying afternoon had lowered the temperature considerably; even in the South, early autumn and shock was beginning to make me tremble. Each shake shot bolts of pain from my fingers, teeth, and head, but I couldn't take my eyes off the scene before me. I remember thinking to myself, "maybe they'll tell her to let me go."
A loud crash from the kitchen made me jump (crunching bits of tooth between my molars in the process) and caused my aunt to pause. She raced into the other room, yelled at something giddily, and returned to stalk towards me with feverish delight.
"That was their sign! This is it! He will be so happy!"
She grabbed my breast and twisted it sharply.
"You want this, don't you? This! This!"
She scrambled to pick up the knife once more and eyed the pale flesh on my bare thigh. I'd been wearing shorts. Humming random notes, she began to carve the same symbols into my thigh. At one point, she carefully sliced up and peeled back a circle of my skin. This she placed on her nose and grinned at me.
"Boo!" she giggled. "You just loved that when you were little!"
I firmly believe that shock and blood-loss as well as the concussion I no doubt had were the cause of what I began to see next. While she carved into my leg, I stared at the far corner of the room. I was convinced I saw a shadow gathering there. In reality, it was probably just the setting sun chasing away light, but I was so certain that the darkness was taking shape.
I've never experienced sleep paralysis, but the feeling I had, had been almost exactly the same. Something was watching us. Something evil. It wanted to revel in my torture. The sheer madness of the entire situation convinced me that this was the one my aunt had been babbling about. If there was, in fact, a creature that wanted my flesh, it was definitely descending upon us.
I screamed my throat ragged. I continued to try to get her off, but the wiggling only dug her knife deeper into me.
"If you stay still, I'll be very careful," she sang.
My eyes locked on the shadow and I began to plead. I begged her to let me go. I begged her to remember that I was her niece. I promised her I'd let her run free. I said I'd never tell mom who had done this. I told her I'd let her have anything she wanted if she would just please stop this. In response, she put her finger to her lips and shushed me.
"Do you hear that?"
She froze and I held my breath. I strained my ears. Honestly, there could have been nothing but the blood rushing in my head, but my poor brain translated this into faint whispers. My aunt grinned at me.
"They come. They. They want you. And He will take it. Yes, yes He will. Yes He will take what He wants."
She said this with a sort of reverence that chilled me. She used her legs to force mine apart and pointed the tip of the knife at my crotch.
"I'll slice your cunt wide enough for them to all crawl inside. I'll stuff them into you. All inside."
She giggled, though her eyes suddenly became pained. She moved her face in close and clawed at one of the sores on her cheeks.
"I can feel them crawling out of me," she moaned.
She held up one of her arms and shoved the abscesses into my sight.
"Can you see them? Can you? YOU AREN'T EVEN LOOKING!"
In her rage, she shoved the abscess into my face, smearing puss and dead flesh into my eyes. It was vile enough to wake me up and renew my struggling to break free. Why was it so cold? Why did I hear those whispers? My aunt was wailing and clawing at her arm, momentarily taken by the need to dig out whatever was killing her skin. I desperately railed against the bonds enough to make the chair jump. Ceasing this momentum, I rocked side to side enough to tip over to my right.
Unfortunately, my neck had been tied to something else behind me. I was stuck trying to position my legs to keep the chair from sliding further and further, strangling me. This broke my aunt out of her lapse in attention. With a snarl, she kicked at my leg and the jerk left me gasping for air.
My vision was beginning to blur. My gaze moved past my aunt and onto the shadow. In the darkness it had begun to spread out of the corner like an ink drop. There were faces, I was sure of it. There were faces in that thing that was coming to claim me. I was mesmerized as my eyes tried to focus on the shifting form. I forced my burning, bleeding leg to keep me propped up, but the darkness was becoming deeper and moved closer. It would take me. It would seep out my soul through all the cuts and bruises in my body.
This sounds slightly profound now, but at the time all these thoughts were occurring instantaneously as I gave way to pure panic. My heartbeat pounded a thundering cadence in my ears as They seeped towards me. I didn't even hear my aunt slip away before the scream hit my ears and the lights flooded the room.
Again, at this point my memory dulls. My mother rushed in and found me in that state. She raced me to the hospital with my grandparents while calling the police. While I was recovering overnight, the small force of local cops searched the fields and forests for my aunt. Bulletins were put out. A deputy even went door-to-door down the single road by the house and warned the neighbors to stay inside and lock their doors.
What I found more disturbing was the fact that my aunt had been tied down to the bed and locked in that room. The officers said that the ties looked like they had been chewed and ripped off, but the door wasn't forced open. My grandparents, even my mother, swore that it had been locked before they left. They had double-checked it. No one let her out.
They did find my aunt. She had hung herself with twine in a barn not far from our land. Though the nails don't grow on my left index finger, middle finger, or thumb, thousands of dollars were able to correct my smile and my legs healed surprisingly well. Not to be overly spooky or dramatic, but I can't lie to you.
I do still have nightmares. In them, I wake up tied down somewhere with my aunt whispering over me. The markings on my legs sting like they were fresh.
She looks exactly like she did that day, down to my blood on her lips. The only thing is... she's just one of the faces in that monster.