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They say that ignorance is bliss.
I’ve had a reoccurring nightmare for as long as I can remember. I am alone in darkness, in a sort of half awake half asleep state, feeling content and safe. I feel like I have been in this state forever, like I have never known anything else but this dark sleepy bliss. Soft gold light starts to flicker through the darkness but it doesn't illuminate anything. It just creates beautiful patterns and dances through the soft black velvet. Then something shifts. The light seems too harsh, it seems to rush past me in faster blurs and it hisses as it slices through the air. I feel a rumbling under me, no to the right, no the left- I can't figure out where it is coming from, and it gets louder and louder and something is moving in the darkness, something is coming closer, I can’t see, I can’t breathe, I can only wait as whatever it is comes closer- then- soft light, darkness, and warm air.
I am aware of my body now. I am sweating and my heart is beating. I have form but I can’t move. Something has changed. The place I am feels like it is waiting to pounce, the calm before the storm, the warning before the flood. Nothing is wrong, but everything is. I am alone and frightened, but it is beautiful and serene and so I relax. The light sparkles and glows, it dances, and glimmers, hypnotizing me into a trance. It gleams like the facets of a thousand diamonds and then it explodes, shrapnel diving at my face, a growling in the air, bright red light, something is all around me and it wants to consume me. Fire and darkness, someone is screaming, I can move now but I can only run in place, run in place forever and ever, this thing will never end and I can’t outrun it because it is holding me as I struggle. Something very bad is about to happen, something I desperately need to escape from-
I wake up.
My room is still. The walls are silent. It is so quiet, it is too quiet.
I can hear the blood rushing in my ears and feel my heartbeat pounding in my palms and the soles of my feet. The sheets are sticky with sweat. But I don’t move.
My closet door looms ahead of me.
Something feels wrong, like there is an animal waiting to pounce in the room. My stuffed toys are waiting, watching with dead vacant eyes. I don’t dare even hide my head under the sheets for fear of waking the thing that watches me.
And so I lie there, eyes closed, breath shallow, all the way until morning.
The nightmares stopped when I turned thirteen. I have no way of knowing if that was a coincidence or not, but I do know that something shifted that year.
I had my birthday party at my house. All of my good friends were invited to a pool party and sleepover. It was really fun and we had a great time. After all of the parents left we went up to my bedroom and put a flashlight in the middle of the floor and began telling scary stories. One of my friends decided to make a Ouija board out of paper and a plastic cup, and we sat it down on the floor in a circle and tried to summon a spirit. We were laughing and joking, and the paper board didn't seem particularly threatening. The warm light of the flashlight danced on the walls and glowed on our faces. We were asking it stupid questions, like who would get married first and what our crushes thought about us, when suddenly something shifted. The room felt predatory, and the light got cold. Everyone stopped talking and looked around the circle. I had invited six friends over, but when I looked around the circle something was wrong. There was a seventh person.
She was on the outer edge of the circle and facing in towards us. Either she was kneeling down or she was very short, and she was crouching over. She was wearing something white and dirty, and had long dark hair. Her head was tilted toward the floor. Slowly she lifted her head to meet our eyes. There were no facial features, save for one; large completely black eyes.
I blinked and She was gone. We all began screaming at the same time and everyone ran out of the room. My friends went home that night. I slept on the couch for a month.
Things never really went back to normal after that day. I began seeing things. Shadows of things, half glimpses of people who weren't there, or who vanished before I could really see them. I would hear my mom calling my name and telling me dinner was ready, and I would run downstairs to find no one was home and the house was empty. I would hear whispers coming from my closet at night, and despite regularly closing the door before bed, would find it open the next morning. I saw Her more too. Her eyes were watching from the mirror when I glanced by, Her face in the dark of my room at night. I was terrified.
One day I was sitting on my bed doing homework and listening to music, and the air shifted again. I could feel something beside me, I could feel a new weight on my mattress. I kept my eyes on my page. There was hot breath on my cheek, and from the corner of my eye I could see black. Hair.
I began screaming and the air shattered. My mom came rushing into my room and I ran into her arms. But there was no one in the room with me. I tried explaining to my mom what was going on, because I felt like things were getting too scary and I wanted to know if we could get the room blessed by a priest or something, like I had seen on T.V. My mom was very religious, but I think that she thought I was just imagining things, or making them up for attention because she just told me to pray and that it would make things better. I began praying every night and day after that, right when I woke up and right before bed, and it seemed to be helping.
I would catch small glimpses of a white figure sometimes but It would often disappear and I would convince myself that I was just seeing things. This went on for a year or so, and eventually I thought that maybe I had just imagined Her. Then I started finding it. Hair. At first there was just a few strands of it. Long, black, and stringy, tucked into the inside of my T-shirts, or lazily lying on my bed. I thought it was really strange because my family is all blonde, and none of my friends had hair like that. I began finding it balled up in my socks and woke up with chunks clutched in my fists. It was everywhere, and it was disturbing.
Along with the hair I began having another reoccurring nightmare, but this one was different. I was up in a tree surrounded by miles and miles of cracked, dry earth. The tree was brown and curled upward in a feeble attempt to survive the barren landscape. There was no way down, and I was too high up to jump, and so I stayed up in the branches, waiting for someone to come help me. I started to get really hungry. I waited and waited for someone to come but no one did. It was silent. Hair began to grow from the leaves of the tree. Long and Black, and matted, it covered the places that branches should grow. It moved when there was no wind. It seemed to hiss words I couldn't understand. Each night I dreamed about being in this tree. Each night the Hair grew more. One night, As I was in the tree looking for a way to escape I looked down and saw something on the ground. It was a snake. It was green and shiny and was looking straight up at me. I called down for it to help me. It said it would, that it knew a way I could escape. I eagerly asked what I needed to do to get down
That couldn't be right; the ground was too far away, and it was too hard for me to fall that far. If I jumped surely I would be severely injured or even die. I kept asking it if there were other ways but It would only repeat itself. “Jump.”
I started acting more distant from my friends at school. I would avoid talking to people but I would always try to be surrounded by them. I didn't want anyone to think I was crazy, and I didn't want to be left alone.
After months of the nightmare I began to get desperate. In my dreams I was incredibly hungry, and I was starting to wonder if jumping wouldn't be so horrible after all. The snake was getting louder; its chant “Jump” was getting harder to ignore. The hair started to look appetizing. I wanted to eat it, just a little, to see if it could curb my hunger. One night, after hours of hearing the snake whispering to me, after listening to the hair swish back and forth with its strange language, I did it. I grabbed a fistful of the hair, pulled it out from the branches of the trees and began shoving it in my mouth. It tasted bitter and slithered down my throat as if it was alive, but I kept grabbing more and more chunks of it. I couldn't get enough. Reaching out for a strand right above me, I lost my balance. I fell. The snake opened its mouth wide.
I woke up feeling like I had to vomit and ran into the bathroom. Covering the floor were large chunks of black slimy hair, there were several the size of my fist all balled up in the corners of the room. I threw up and watched in horror as not only that nights dinner came up, but black silky hair came up too and slithered into the toilet. I couldn't take it. I broke.
I felt like I was an observer, and someone else was in the driver's seat of my body as I calmly flushed the toilet, walked downstairs and opened the medicine cabinet. The last thing I remember was the room spinning, and The Girl sitting next to me with her eyes fastened on mine. I noticed that she finally acquired a mouth.
I woke up in the hospital. They said I was lucky to be alive, that they had to pump my stomach, and that I would likely have to deal with kidney damage in the future. I spent four days in the Psych ward and then they let me out. My parents were in shock, they had no idea that I was in such a bad place, and for a long time they treated me like I was a very fragile doll that had to be carefully watched. I was on medication for a few years, but stopped taking it when I turned 17. I thought about the Girl sometimes, but always forced the memories away. Maybe If I pretended she didn’t exist, she wouldn’t. It worked. I haven't seen her in seven years.
I am healthy and happy and live on my own now, in a nice apartment by myself in a relatively safe city. I go to college and am really happy with my friends and growing career. In fact, I seem to have everything going for me, and until last night thought that everything was actually going to be fine. I had come home from studying and was taking my nightly shower when I noticed the water wasn't draining right. I turned off the water and pulled out the shower drain to see if anything was stuck in there. There was. Black clumps of long matted hair, trailing away into the metal hole.
I felt the air shift.