Achluophobia, Arachnophobia, Autophobia…
Easy does it... Just take a deep breath...
Batophobia, Bogyphobia, Catoptrophobia…
Don’t open your eyes. Don’t listen to anything around you.
Claustrophobia, Coimetrophobia, Enochlophobia…
Count all the phobias you know. Name them off. Take your mind off things.
Gelotophobia, Hadephobia, Hematophobia...
… Wait. I’m missing one. I sighed uncomfortably as I opened my eyes to be greeted by the familiar darkness of my room, only faintly illuminated by the glow of my light red lava lamp sitting in the corner on the shelf attached to the wall. Sunlight was already beginning to stream into the room from behind the choking grasp of the thick curtains I kept in front of my window, and my room soon wouldn’t be dark anymore.
I sat up in my bed, my dark blue blankets sliding off from around me as I left their comforting embrace, I didn’t want to get up yet, but at the same time I didn’t want to stay in either. I didn’t want to go back to sleep, and after that nightmare I couldn’t even if I tried. I rubbed my clammy palm over my eyes, rubbing away the remaining hold sleep had over me. These dreams were getting worse, I had to put a stop to this one way or another soon. I can’t go on like this.
I shifted over and pushed myself over so my long legs hung over the side of the bed, barely nudging against the securely locked drawers that lay under my bed. I always locked up everything in my room, I could never take any chances. I took a moment before I pushed myself up out of my bed and reached up, clicking on the light to my ceiling fan above my head. I blinked and let my eyes adjust to the new light that illuminated my room before looking around one last time, making sure everything was in place out of habit.
Computer sat in one corner of the room on a desk across from the door, a random brightly colored garment covering the monitor, closet to the left beside the desk that hid behind the door when it opened, and across from the closet was my bed. A large dresser full of clothes over in another corner, my old TV sitting on the far right of it and facing the bed, a large mirror placed right on the back, above the dresser and against the wall. Shelves and table at the end of the bed where my lava lamp was, my fish tank sitting next to it. Yep, everything where it should be.
I avoided the gaze of my reflection for a moment before finally looking over and inspecting myself, I was still the same person I always was, too. Neck-length charcoal hair, greying a bit prematurely at the roots, falling over the left side of my face messily from my hysterical wake-up, lightly tanned, though mostly pale skin, and bright aqua eyes with prominent dark circles running along underneath them. One faded scar to the right over the edge of my forehead that disappeared into my hair, and one other over the edge of my jawline on the left. Marcus Tomford: same guy I always was and always will be.
I smiled a bit at myself, trying to cheer myself up a bit seeing that everything is as it should be. It was hard to keep a smile though when, from the reflection of the mirror, I could see two small, faint, glowing red specks from behind me in the shadows. I quickly whipped my head around and scrambled back against the dresser swiftly with a small gasp of surprise, my sleep-strained eyes focusing on the area only to see nothing but an empty space of shadow from under my desk. Another hallucination. Just what I needed to start my day with. I groaned lightly and rubbed my palm against my damp forehead in frustration, frustrated both at myself and my horrible reaction to the almost commonplace occurrence for me now.
Ever since I was a little kid I was constantly haunted by the monsters that resided in the back of my mind; I was always the kid burying himself under the covers in fear of the dark and begging his parents to check in the closet and under his bed for monsters. My mind always played tricks on me, like it liked seeing what kind of horrible reactions it could evoke from my body.
I would see dark figures following me at night from out the corner of my eyes, I would hear faint breathing from something other than myself in my room when I was alone at night in my bed. I had to take medication to try and prevent these hallucinations from overcoming my senses, and I couldn't even sleep anymore without a light on and my radio playing some form of music to fill in the painful silence of my room at night. But my medications were becoming useless to me now; once I turned thirteen they progressively started returning again, even when I took them. Now it was like they were becoming immune to the mind-numbing effects of them and that meant something horrifying to me...
If I stopped taking them now... they would only be even stronger than they were before.
This thought always went through my mind as I lay in my bed at night in a half asleep state, being startled awake by the brief visions I would see floating around in my room. The thought that even when they got as bad as before, when I was little and not on medication, that they could be even twice as bad if I stopped taking them. It didn't help that I was diagnosed with so many phobias at such a young age; it only helped my mind more knowing what it feared in order to help frighten itself and its body.
I wasn't a little kid anymore though, I was a seventeen year old high school senior with an acute case of mental disturbance and a rather chronic case of insomnia that accompanied it, who was currently on daily medication for both issues. I went over these facts day after day to remind myself that there was nothing out there, nothing to try and kill me, nothing following me or watching me, it was always just my imagination. It's hard though, because I know that what I see is just in my head, but always, in the back of my head, I have a bit of doubt that it all really is fake in the end.
Finally recovered from my brief fright, I pushed myself away from the dresser with shaky hands, moving instead across my small, furniture-cluttered bedroom and over to my closet to get some clothes for the day. Today was Wednesday, I only had three days left including today before I could relax for the weekend.
This thought comforted me as I dressed myself in a dark grey tank top, my favorite black camouflage hoodie with silver trim, a pair of long black pants with zippered-up pockets along the sides of it, and a pair of bright red and white sneakers. I may not like the dark, but for some reason I really am drawn to dark colors. My few friends say it makes me look more emo than I already look, but I never really cared; I dressed how I liked, not really trying to fit into any kind of clique or style at all.
After changing I looked over at the clock to check the time I had left before school. The digital face of my alarm clock read 6:15; I still had an hour and a half until I had to leave. I decided the first and most important thing to take care of would be taking my medication; I needed to get rid of these growingly intense and troublesome hallucinations. Opening my door, I looked down into the deep, disturbingly dark hallway that my room was connected to. My blood ran cold at just the sight of the vast emptiness of dark space before me.
Kenophobia: the fear of voids or empty spaces. Achluophobia: the fear of darkness. Two of my many great phobias that consumed my being every day of my life that I was diagnosed with even at a young age. I shook away my fear that already began to make my thin body tremble and looked away sharply to the door across from my bedroom: the bathroom. Swallowing back the butterflies fluttering up from my stomach I quickly crossed the hall over to the door opposite of my room. My movements were sharp and even more frantic as my shaking hands gripped onto the knob of the bathroom door. I could hear footsteps approaching me from within the void of the hall.
My breath caught in my throat and fear quickly overtook my system. My hands struggled to work from my overcoming panic. What started as what could be described as an almost dead, lazy stumbling turned into a jog, then a sprint. I could hear the pounding of heavy, crazed footsteps slamming against the carpet towards me in a frenzy of bloodlust...
The door to my restroom flew open and I went with it. A strangled gasp escaping from me as, from the corner of my eye, I made out a blur of a mangled black mass of flesh barely skim past the back of my knees. A small, warped snarl escaping from its lips as it missed my clothed flesh. I took no time in quickly closing the door behind me and flicking on the lights to the bathroom with a heavy sigh of relief.
It's starting to happen again. I need my meds now. My body was still trembling from the narrow encounter from my nightmares as my hands fumbled with the mirrored doors of the medicine cabinet. I reached inside the space and grasped the bottle tightly in my trembling hands, twisting the cap off and letting it clatter down into the sink with a plank. I quickly overturned the bottle to empty out its contents into my palm and froze at what I received from the bottle instead.
Empty. The bottle was completely empty. My medication had run out.
The bottle slipped from my hands and clattered noisily into the sink with the previously discarded cap. I fell back against the bathroom door, my body frozen and shaken in disbelief. I had known that it was going to run out soon, but... why now? Why TODAY? Had I really forgotten so many times to get it refilled? “... Shit... I'm done for...” I mumbled under my breath. I couldn't go in and get any more since I had to get them from my doctor; they never carried my specific medication in stores. Who knows when I would be able to get in there and get more now...
So there I stood, trembling and terrified. Knowing that at any moment these visions and noises could grow in their intensity and overcome me. I didn't want to move. I didn't want to even breathe. I was scared for what tricks my mind would play on me when I left my sanctuary of light.
Eventually I swallowed down the rising anxiety that was threatening to send me back into hysteria again and turned around to face the door. Dare I open it and face the rest of the day? Could I just stay in here all day until my mom goes to the doctor and refills my meds for me? I contemplated this for a moment, my fingers running through my long, greying hair in a lazy attempt to brush it out and soothe my troubled mind without having to turn around and grab for my brush.
Finally, after what might have only been a minute or two, but felt like an hour, I firmly gripped the knob of the door and twisted it, slowly opening the door and letting the artificial light from the room shine out into the hallway. Nothing was there to frighten me. I breathed a sigh of relief as I looked down the hall to see the sunlight starting to, more brightly now, shine in and dissipate the darkness of the hallway before me. A small smile cracked over my face as I easily clicked off the light to the bathroom and closed the door behind me out of habit, moving back across the hall fearlessly to my bedroom again. Maybe... maybe it stopped...? No, I knew better than that. It's only a short break before the nightmares return again.
That morning I went about my daily business as normally with not a single disturbance or break in my flow. I clicked off my lava lamp, fed my pet goldfish Tiger and Lily, properly brushed out my hair, and overall got ready for the day. Things went smoothly as my mom finally awoke as well and drove me ahead to school for the day.
I sat in my third period class, my exhausted eyes scanning over a piece of paper in front of me. It was my favorite class too: psychology. But no matter how hard I tried I couldn't focus on the class. Instead I decided to go over my notes on phobias and try and resolve my problem from earlier that day: figuring out which phobia I missed when I was naming them off.
Achluophobia, Arachnophobia, Autophobia, Batophobia, Bogyphobia, Catoptrophobia, Claustrophobia, Coimetrophobia, Dementophobia, Enochlophobia.
Dementophobia – the fear of insanity. That's the one I missed. I yawned tiredly, waking up so early after hardly being able to sleep for almost a whole week was really starting to take its toll on me. My eyes could hardly stay open as I gazed over the paper mindlessly, going over what I already memorized and knew. For a brief moment I felt my eyes close completely, and I sighed heavily as I wasn’t able to feel myself relax at all into a brief lapse of sleep... “Tomford!”
I suddenly jolted up in my seat at the call of my surname and focused my eyes up on my teacher, Mr. Stone. “I can see you nodding off over there, don't think I don't see you.” I scratched the back of my head sheepishly and shook my head, “Sorry sir...” I responded tiredly. I didn't want to go into a lengthy discussion over the reason behind my state in class. I hated when people laughed at me, and I could already hear a few people giggling at me behind my back from me being called out.
Gelotophobia – the fear of being laughed at.
Mr. Stone walked over from his position in the front of the room in front of the whiteboard and crossed his arms as he stood in front of my desk. I almost shrunk in my seat from being eclipsed by his looming figure; Mr. Stone was a very tall and intimidating man, with sharp eyes and a well-defined figure that stole power and held it like the powerful material his own name rang with. “You'd do well to keep your eyes on the board, young man. If you don't I'll have to wake you up myself.” I blinked a bit in mixed confusion and faint fear, was he threatening me? His voice was strong and demanding, but at the same time could be considered fatherly, stern, and dare I say even caring at times. He was terrifying in figure and tone, and yet still seemed to act like a caring father to his students. Go figure.
“Sorry, sir... I haven't been able to sleep a lot lately. I'll be fine.” I could hear more students giggling throughout the class, some even louder now it seemed. Did they not care about him hearing them? “Son, you are far from fine,” he stated simply and he smacked his ruler down on the back of my hand sharply, causing me to cringe in pain at the unexpected sting, “We're gonna have to wake you up... one way... or another...” His voice turned from soft and caring to low and demonic in an almost ungodly amount of time. I snapped my hand back away from under the ruler and my eyes glanced down in horror as a few black droplets of liquid fell onto my desk before me. Oh God no... It's already starting to happen. I swallowed hard and started to turn my eyes up to my instructor's face; if I was going to fight back these hallucinations, I had to know what I was going up against. But my heart nearly stopped as my eyes focused on his face... The only way I can describe what he looked like was being the absolute essence of my darkest nightmares.
His face was no longer the stern, edged, sharp-jawed face I had grown accustomed to; his face was built like a baby-faced puppet. His jaw was hinged down to reveal a black hole of abyss within his mouth, yet sharp, inhuman, needle-like fangs lined down in rows along his jaws. His eyes were no longer sharp and intimidating, now they were dark holes of emptiness with obsidian black ooze dripping from the bottoms of them and down his baby-like face.
I shrieked in absolute terror at what he had become. I couldn't stand staring at his face, and as I fell back in my chair onto the ground from unprepared shock I could hear the small giggles and chuckles around me turn into full-on hysterical laughter. Everyone was laughing... laughing at my fear, laughing at my terror. I was about to look up and hope to God it was all a joke but my heart only thudded harder in my terror-stricken chest at my classmates' expressions.
Their eyes were wild and frenzied, not even human anymore, more like hungry, demonic tigers than anything a human could possess. They were never blinking, and their eyes never moved from anything other than me. Their jaws all had marks over them like a puppet's bottom jaw and their mouths were lined with the same razor-sharp, needle-like fangs that my teacher possessed. Their mouths were curled up into wide smiles that literally stretched from ear to ear, their mouths sparking and spitting embers of fire and rust with every metallic, broken burst of laughter that escaped from their inhuman lips.
Pupaphobia – the fear of puppets. Ophthalmophobia - the fear of being stared at. Pyrophobia- the fear of fire. Trypanophobia – the fear of needles. Enochlophobia - the fear of crowds.
“Oh God... oh God...! Stay away from me!” I shrieked as I scattered back away from my fallen chair and scattered back to the back of the room, slamming myself against the back wall in a desperate attempt to escape from this terrible room of horrors. They never took their eyes off me, none of them. They all just stared with their horrible, unblinking eyes and laughed at me, their laughter only growing louder and louder by the minute, ringing around the large, empty space of the room and stinging my sensitive eardrums.
I clapped my hands over my ears sharply in an attempt to drive out the ringing laughter in my eardrums. Their mocking, insane laughter permanently imprinted in my mind as I looked ahead towards what used to be Mr. Stone. My eyes were glued onto his figure as I saw him take one thunderous step after another towards me. That black slime continuing to drip from his empty voids of carved eyeholes and down his face to the ground, making a nice long trail of black along the pale tiles of the floor.
“What's wrong, Marcus...? Can't wake up...?” My body refused to budge from that spot, the fear in my body paralyzed me to the spot on the wall where I was. All I could do was slide down the rough, paper-littered wall down on to my bottom. “It's okay, Marcus... If you can't wake up, then just go back to sleep...” My breath came out in short, uneven breaths as I struggled to try and make myself say something, anything to keep him away. “n... n-n...” Mr. Stone stood before me, his long metal ruler now broken in two, the edges of the exposed broken end sharp and jagged, practically begging to be plunged into warm, living flesh.
Marcus! I could hear other voices now, people around me. It sounded like my classmates, but I couldn't hear their cries and pleas from over the drowning sound of crazed laughter around me. All I could do was try and force myself to form words as Mr. Stone took a hold of the ruler with both hands and positioned it up over his head down at me. “N... N-No...”
“Sleep tight, Marcus.”
I let out a sharp shriek as the ruler was brought down sharply from over his head straight toward my heart. But in that instant I closed my eyes sharply and flung my arms over my head in a futile attempt to protect myself. The laughter began to die down from around me, and instead of feeling the driving, ripping agony of the metal plunging into my flesh all I could feel were two strong hands on my shoulders shaking me awake.
“TOMFORD! MARCUS TOMFORD! Wake up, damn it!”
My eyes snapped open wide and a sharp gasp escaped from my lips, like I was resurfacing from the ocean after plunging deep into the depths of its essence. Mr. Stone was gripping onto my shoulders from above me, crowds of my classmates around me in a tight, choking circle. Their previous laughter was replaced with soft murmurs and hushed whispers I couldn't make out. I struggled against the grasp of my teacher and kicked my feet as I tried to move myself up and off the cold, tiled floor.
Claustrophobia - the fear of confined spaces.
“Let me go...! G-Get away from me!” My one friend in that class, a redheaded kid two years younger than me named Mathew (though I just called him Matt.), was trying to shove back some of the more tightly constricted students in the circle, “Give him some air, damn it! He's claustrophobic; leave him alone ya buncha vultures!”
Mr. Stone glanced up at the slowly dispersing crowd with a deadly scowl, “You heard him, back up unless you all want after-school detention!” The threat quickly made the rest of the students around me finally skitter away from me and back away as far to the walls as they could.
I lay there, breathlessly panting with my heart racing in my chest like I had just ran a mile in a minute. I held back a soft whimper as I sat up from on the ground, Mr. Stone releasing my shoulders and moving over next to me, crouched down by my side and looking down into my eyes, “Marcus, are you alright?” It was hard to currently formulate words; my entire being was trembling in my seat and I simply moved my legs up, hugging my knees to my chest and nodding quietly. This seemed to be enough of a response for him as he breathed a soft sigh of relief, “I think you should probably go up to the office, Tomford... Maybe call your mom and have her pick you up early.”
I told Mr. Stone at the beginning of the year about my condition; it was required for me to tell all my teachers so that they knew how to handle me in the rare occasion that this happened. I didn't want to go home, but I knew he was right; here at school was not the time to be freaking out and hallucinating. Still... how bad was I? “I'll take him up to the office, sir.”
I looked up to see Matt approaching us and reaching down to offer me a hand up, “He's my friend, I can handle him, okay?” The suggestion seemed to please my teacher and he nodded before standing back up to his towering height. “That's fine. Just tell them that it was an emergency so they won't get you in trouble for not having a pass,” Matt nodded in response to him as he helped me up to my feet, smiling in his usual cheerful, reassuring way to help calm my shaken nerves.
“Everybody back in their seats! No time for lollygagging!” I heard Mr. Stone announce as I was led out of the classroom with Matt. The walk was long and awkwardly quiet as we walked down the hallway to the office on the other side of the building.
I finally stopped shaking and my body relaxed at last when Matt finally decided to break the deafening silence between us, “Are you alright?”
It was a simple question, and I know he knew the answer. “... Yeah, I'm fine.”
Matt was the kind of guy that seemed to always be there when you needed him; it didn't matter where you were or what you were doing, he always seemed able to just pop up to be by your side whenever you needed it. He was a little bit shorter than me, but not by a lot since I was only 5'10”. He had rather short-cut hair, but he had long bangs that messily fell over his forehead and sometimes even fell into his eyes whenever he ran.
His eyes were kind of a grey-green color that always seemed out of place with his almost cherry red hair. He was always the outcast though, for his attire especially; some form of striped shirt underneath a pair of dull, faded overalls. Some people picked on him for liking the outdated clothing, but it really did suit his laid-back, cheerful demeanor. I guess you could say that we were pretty good friends.
“How bad was I?” I finally asked him as we turned around the corner to pass through the next half of the building to go to the office.
“Ah, well...” he trailed off and scratched the back of his head with a short, nervous laugh, “You kinda fell asleep in the middle of class. Stone was tryin' to wake ya up, but you wouldn't budge. Then you just kinda jumped outta your seat and started stumblin' around the class like a crazy person! You were screaming n' coverin' ya ears and finally fell over a desk. Ya kinda just rolled around on the ground for a bit 'til Stone finally brought ya back to us. So...” He shrugged a bit with a small smile, “I guess you broke the school record on the crazy scale.”
I sighed and rubbed the side of my head, damn I must've hit something pretty hard too... I felt like I went head to head with a rhino, literally. “Great... Now people are prolly gonna be gossiping about me up and down this place.” Matt's grin disappeared for a minute before it quickly regained its place on his face, him patting my back reassuringly, “Ah, don't worry about it, buddy! You only have one year left anyway, so who cares, eh? Besides, I'm here for ya, so I'll make sure nobody'll pick on ya too hard!” His cheerful attitude couldn't make me stay worried and upset for long; it wasn't too hard for a relaxed smile to find its way onto my face as well, “Yeah, you're right... Thanks, Matt.”
“Anytime. But next time ya have a full-scale freak-out, can ya do me a favor and not hit me in the face on ya way down from trippin' over a desk?”
“Hah! Not my fault your face was asking for a high-five from my fist!”
“Yeah, well next time I'll hit you back twice as hard, so don't mess around, dick!”
We shared a good couple of laughs as we finally made it to the office; life was good when he was around here to help me out.
So there I sat in the nurse’s office, sitting down on the plush, yet oddly uncomfortable, patients' bed that was pushed against the wall. The nurse wasn’t here yet, but she’ll probably be back soon to check up on me and inspect me for injuries. The air was uncomfortably tense and humid in the small room, adding only to my discomfort as my eyes scanned the room over in boredom, hoping to find some form of comfort in the quietness. I couldn’t stand being alone in a room by myself though; the quiet in an empty room left me alone to my thoughts, and I hated my thoughts right now so I didn’t even want to focus on them, even if they wanted to focus on me.
Autophobia – the fear of being alone or of oneself.
I felt a shiver run down my spine as I glanced over at a few of the inanimate objects sitting on the desk over against another wall. Some of the shadows from the objects seemed to be almost pulsing with life under the objects they reflected, almost as if they were living, breathing creatures. Their darkness would fade from becoming even darker with each breath to becoming light again, and I couldn't help but feel the burning sensation of these shadow creatures from around my body... I felt like they were all watching me, giggling at me and laughing at me behind my back.
Stop! No, this isn't the time for this! I clenched my eyes shut and took in one long, shaky breath in an attempt to calm down the nervous quickening of my heartbeat. None of these are real, nothing is there. Everything is fine. It's all in your head... Quick, what's the full value of pi? Name down all the phobias you know... Anything... Just... think about something else...! I bit my lip as the ringing of laughter returned to my senses. The sound of that metallic, hysterical laughter... I could hear it echoing now the same as before. So faint that it didn't seem real, and yet loud enough to keep every muscle in my body tense and uneasy. The click of the door opening brought me back to my senses as the nurse walked into the room. I jumped a bit in surprise at first but my body instantly relaxed at the newfound company.
“Hello there, dear. Feeling at all better?”
I nodded at the elderly woman in a silent response. “Yeah... A bit, thanks.” She smiled softly in an almost knowing way and moved over to sit at her desk.
“I'm glad to hear that. I'm going to check you out for any injuries in a moment, alright? I just need to fill these out first for the front desk so they know you'll be leaving early.”
“That's fine, ma'am. Thanks.” Turning away from the elder, greying woman I noticed something odd: the shadows over her desk had stopped their previous, living actions. Come to think about it, the minute she walked in they had stopped. Can't say that I'm too upset, but I was a bit confused. She took her time as she peered up from the screen of the school computer to the paper before her, her hands moving almost in an uneasy, nervous manner. Is something bothering her? I hope I'm not making her too uncomfortable...
She's waiting, Marcus. My body froze in place at the unfamiliar voice in the room. My eyes moved up from the floor as I thought I heard the nurse finish her work, but instead I found her body still crawling away, yet now in complete silence... What...? She's waiting for her moment, Marcus. She's going to take it the moment she lets your guard down. She'll kill you in a heartbeat. That voice... It was so low, so deep, it sounded almost as if it were the voice of the devil itself. That thought made my blood run cold; what if it WAS the devil...?
She's going to kill you, Marcus. You can't let her take the chance. You have to kill her before she kills you. No way...! Some old lady?! You've got to be kidding me...! I clenched my eyes shut tight and covered my ears, trying to drive out the voice of whatever god or creature was trying to scare me. I could feel those eyes burning into me again; the invisible eyes of the creatures of the shadows burning into me, like they were daring me to make a move...
“Sweetie, is everything alright?” My eyes snapped open only for me to realize I wasn't even sitting up like I was before; I had fallen over onto my side on the ground and was staring up into the sweet honey colored eyes of the nurse. Was I asleep? But I could have sworn that I was just awake! I pushed myself up and groaned in slight pain that radiated from my head and side, (I guess I really DID pass out) nodding lightly, “Yeah... Sorry, I guess I passed out.” She nodded and moved back so I could pick myself up off the ground and move back onto the patient's bed again, “I heard that you don't get much sleep, so I guess that makes sense. I'm sorry for not checking up on you sooner.”
“I-It's fine, ma'am. Don't worry about it.” She seemed to appreciate the reassuring words and smiled a bit softly, “Well, I'm going to get just a few things from the storage, alright? Don't you fall back asleep on me again, now!” With that she shuffled over to a door off to the side and unlocked the door to reveal a room stocked up with supplies I didn't think I'd ever think even a school nurse would ever need: vials of what looked like saved vaccines, syringes, castings, even a bonesaw! She looked back at me and laughed softly in embarrassment, “I used to work in a hospital, so in case of emergencies I have all necessary supplies for any kind of quick mend, you see.” Ah... I guess that makes sense.
As she turned her back on me to retrieve a few things I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end; I could feel the soft blowing of hot, heavy breath down my neck, and an almost inhumanly low chuckle in my ear. I dared not move, but my eyes moved over to my shoulder to see nothing by me. You see? She has everything she needs to end your life and even commit the perfect murder in there. Don't wait, Marcus. ACT. That voice again... That horrible, beastly voice...
My eyes moved over and the shadows were now pulsing even stronger than before; they seemed to be even moving, like the breath of a man desperately gasping for his last few breaths of air, only they could never seem to catch their breath.
Bang! I jumped as the sudden slam of the door pierced through the tense air of the small room. The nurse was holding what had to have been the largest syringe I have ever seen in my life. The needle alone was at least six inches long, and the container was two inches wide across! “Your mother got you a new medicine, sweetie. It’s an injection though, so you’re going to have to relax and let me do this now,” she stated simply with a small, scarily crooked smile.
“No way, man! There’s no way in hell that I’m letting you get near me with that thing!” I jumped off the examination bed and scrambled to the door to get out. Locked. Shit! Whatever that thing was, it was right! I stared wide-eyed as the nurse calmly strode across the room, grabbing an equally as obnoxiously sized vial and slowly filling up the syringe with it. I was starting to panic; I couldn’t let this crazy bitch do this to me! “Damn it...! Hey! Anybody out there?! I think I'm okay to- Grk-!” I stumbled backwards from the door as I felt a sudden constriction around my throat. I quickly grasped onto the object and attempted to yank it off, my eyes darting down to see what was holding onto my throat.
Shadow. I saw only a long tentacle-like appendage wrapped securely around my throat, the thing seeming to be made out of the shadows itself. I struggled against the tugging, slowly choking force that was pulling me backwards to the floor. The strangling of the object wasn't very much, but it was enough to easily catch me off guard, and with the added tugging to the floor, it kept me from hardly being able to gasp for breath in its grip. As I struggled against the appendage I felt two similarly shaped objects swiftly wrap themselves around my legs, curling up my body and yanking my arms away from the first. I was being betrayed by the very room itself!
I was left defenseless as the shadows around me finally managed to yank me down to the ground. I shook my head violently from side to side, trying to move myself out of the grip of the shadowy essence that curled around my body and secured my limbs down tightly against the ground. I tried to scream, to get anybody outside this room to hear me, but the tentacle of shadow around my throat squirmed more of itself up and tightly secured itself over my mouth, successfully sealing my trap closed under it.
“Ah, men... They're so calm and brave until they're met even with the darkest of their fears, eh?” The nurse was so calm as she flicked the tip of the obnoxiously oversized needle, glimmering, black ooze dripping from the tip of it before she approached my restrained body and placed herself over me. “You know, sonny, you'd be much prettier without all the black. It just makes you look like some kind of villain.” She was so calm and collected! Even as she gripped onto the syringe and aimed it right to my heart she didn't even bat an eye.
“Well... I suppose that won't matter now. Goodnight.”
My eyes snapped open wide and I gasped sharply as my nightmare broke yet again. I could still feel the clenching at my throat and it took me a moment to realize that the hands around my neck were far too familiar to be comfortable. “-Shit...!” I released my throat and scrambled back against the examination bed frantically, as though I were trying to escape from my own hands that were now betraying me too.
My eyes had to have been a mile wide as they glanced around the room. The shadows were now growing stronger, seemingly growing in size and pulsing into an overbearing blackness that was consuming the room around me. The sounds of low moans and fearful gasping was ringing in my ears like a slowly growing bass of terror around me. No way, I'm not going through this again! I quickly bolted up off the bed and scrambled from the door. The shadows were starting to squirm under me and regain their nightmarish solid shapes. Slowly growing, twitching and writhing with the growing need to squeeze the life out of anything they touch. The doorknob turned easily as I flung the door open and bolted out like a mad bull seeking out a target.
Join us, Marcus... Join us... I heard the sickening whispers and murmurs of what could very well have been the very damned themselves as I sprinted through the office, avoiding the indistinguishable bodies and screams of those I shoved aside in order to escape. I flung open the door to the office and started a mad dash out down the halls to escape. The pounding of footsteps behind me growing fainter and fainter before they stopped altogether.
My wild running finally came to a stop as I was left breathless and gasping for air. I placed a hand against the wall to steady myself as I panted heavily to catch my breath, turning my head to look behind me to see that whoever was chasing me down was now gone. At least now I'm safe... at last...
I perked up a bit as the flickering of a light above me stole away my attention. I swallowed lightly as I slowly turned my head back ahead to face what was ahead of me. What now...? Was twice not enough...?
Before me the normally well-kept hallways of my school were now in shambles, and I could have sworn that my heart almost stopped momentarily at the sight of its current state. The tiles were now darkened and grimy, some even torn up and chipped apart like the school had been abandoned for decades, the paint on the walls was dull and peeling, and sometimes along it there would be splatters of a strange black liquid across it that faded into a shimmering dark crimson as it ran down the walls and to the torn-up tile floors. The overhead lines of lights on the ceiling were shattered and dead, only a few remaining and dangling from the ceiling in a half-mangled state; the cords keeping them supported were torn and frayed, the shredded ends of them sparking angrily as the remaining few alive lights flickered and swayed in the icy breeze that now seemed to be softly floating down the shattered memory of an old place of sanctuary. I swallowed the lump in my throat down and pushed myself off the wall to my feet. Enough is enough... I'm done with running away, this is getting out of hand.
It's time to end this nightmare once and for all.
I moved forward, slow and heavy steps clacking over the tiles and shattered glass as I took in my surroundings in the dimly lit area. The red-painted lockers against the wall were rusted and rotting in their places, a few of the doors either smashed and dented in, busted open and hanging off the hinges, or missing completely from their place on their cheap, rusty hinges. Bugs skittered and squirmed from the open holes in the doors, half-eaten apples and abandoned textbooks filled with the tiny, crawling creatures that skittered away into the shadows as I walked past them. Shuddering, I moved as far away from the locker doors as I could without touching the grimy wall on the other side of me.
Herpetophobia – the fear of reptiles or creepy, crawly things.
My footsteps echoed in the halls as I strode down the dank emptiness of what used to be such a peaceful refuge away from my classes. The hall seemed to go on forever until I began to see doors to what would have led to the classrooms lining along the walls. The doors to the rooms were not what I expected in the least, however, they had all become just as corrupted as the passage they were all connected to. Each of the doors, instead of being the solid, secure metal doors that served as a passageway to mental, emotional, and sometimes even physical, torture were now cold, pale doors with small windows at the top that were secured with iron bars to keep whatever was within inside it for good; the doors looked like they belonged in an asylum rather than a high school, and yet even then they still seemed to fit.
I could hear the faint rattling of chains and the soft “plit” of some kind of liquid against the floor as I passed by the first few doors, not wanting to look inside at first for fear of what I might see. Finally I heard a small groan of pain in a voice that sounded too familiar to be comfortable and I stopped, sucking in a deep breath and slowly turning my head to see inside the window of the door to the left of me.
Inside the room was... Matt. My best friend. He was on the ground on his knees facing the door, his arms spread apart by his sides away from him and held by thick, rusty chains that were stained a deep crimson around some of the links that were tightly coiled around his wrists and were digging deep into his mangled flesh on his arms. His head was down and his long, cherry red bangs fell over his face so as to mask his expression, but I could tell he was suffering so much in there all alone. Around his neck were the same chains, tightly bound almost to the point of suffocation, and from between their links bright crimson blood slowly dripped from his throat and down onto the floor before him. His tan, freckled skin was covered in slices and fresh scars from God knows who or what and his clothing was torn and shredded all around his arms and torso.
My breath caught in my throat at the sight of his condition. Was he... no. I could see his chest rising and falling softly with each weak, pained wheeze that left him. “... Matt...” He hardly seemed to stir as I spoke, but I knew he was listening to me, “... Matt... I know this isn't really you... I know you aren't really there... And I'm glad that you aren't. I'd rather anybody else being there in your place right now, even me...” I walked over to the window and gripped onto the bars lightly with both hands, “I know what I say doesn't matter now, but.. If there was anything I could do for you right now, man... Just to get you out of there, you bet your ass I would. I'm... Sorry that I had to see you like this.”
No response. I could still hear his faint wheezing though from beneath the chains around his throat and I sighed as I released the metal bars on the door. “I'm going to put an end to all this, Matt. So you won't suffer anymore in there, alright? Just hang tight. I promise this time I'm going to set things right.” I turned to face back down the hall and leave before a single sound from him froze me in my place.
“... Mar... cus...”
My blood ran cold at his voice. So worn... so strained.. I've never heard him so trashed up before. I slowly turned my head back to the window to face him as he tried to lift up his head a bit to look up at me. The chains around his throat rattled as he looked up weakly at me with, surprisingly, no facial changes aside from a bit of dried blood streaked down from his mouth and nose. “Don't... try... to face it... yet...” What...? What was he... I turned back to face him and placed my hands back on the bars firmly, “Matt... I have to do this. Running doesn't work in dreams, you know that and I do too. All my life I've been running in circles, and now it's time to put all this to an end.” His eyes just stared up at me, unblinking and watery until he finally closed them for a long moment. He looked tired and beaten. I never felt so bad before in my life.
“You're not ready... It won't help... It'll only... make things... worse....”
“... Matt... No. I'm sorry, but I can't be doing this anymore. I... I have to set things right, okay?”
“Marcus...” He opened his eyes again and looked up into mine with a sad smile, “You're going to hurt yourself... if you do this...” I looked away, I couldn't look at him right now in his state.
“... Yeah, I know. But I have to take care of this once and for all, okay?” I released my grip on the icy bars yet again and looked back up to him with as much courage as I could muster, “I'll see you on the other side, alright? Bye, Matt.”
I shook my gaze away from him sharply and started to stride down the hall again after taking a moment to recover from the conversation with my imaginary friend. “... Goodbye... Marcus...” Those last two words. Those stayed in my head the entire time as I met with the last flickering light in the hall. End of the line. Ahead of me stood darkness in its purest state. Was I ready to finish all this off?
Hell no I wasn't. But this is still getting done anyway whether I liked it or not. I closed my eyes for a moment and let out a long, slow breath of air to calm my nerves. “Dreams can't hurt you... Nothing can touch you in here... Nothing is real... Nothing can hurt you...” I nodded a bit to help try and reassure myself as I kept my eyes closed and slowly walked ahead into the chilling darkness at the end of the hall.
The air was cold, even for a dream. I couldn't even hear the sound of the sparking of lights behind me anymore. The only things I could hear were the sounds of my own breathing, the nervous throb of my heart pounding in my chest, and the soft clack of my sneakers against the tile floor beneath me.
Eventually I heard the echoing around me shorten until I slammed into a hard object at the end of the hall. I stumbled back a bit and my muscles tightened as I prepared myself for the worse. A monster, a demon, the spawn of Satan himself, I was ready. I slowly opened my eyes only to find...
A mirror. I blinked a bit as the gears in my head turned, processing the information being brought to it. The entire area around me was nothing but neverending blackness, the only thing here was the single mirror before me: a full-body mirror with a flawlessly crafted golden trim around the outside of it. The mirror seemed to be giving off some kind of glow or light, for the tiles at the base of it were faintly illuminated, and the glass was shiny and not the least bit dim at all.
Behind my reflection in the mirror there was nothing but blackness like the rest of the area around me. All I could see was myself in that flawless, unsmudged glass.
Catoptrophobia – the fear of mirrors.
I jumped back a bit at first, expecting something to come out and attack me from the space or to see something behind me or see myself change shape to startle me. But... Nothing. Just myself. Staring back at me. “... This... this isn't right! Where's the demons? Where's the monsters?! Where's the giant puppets with pitchforks and trying to kill me?!” I only grew angry by this kind of disappointment and I angrily threw my fist at the mirror, wanting to shatter it and get it all over with.
The glass wouldn't break though, even with all my force thrown into the punch. I recoiled and rubbed my hand at the pain from the impact and stared at the glass once more. Not a single scratch or smudge on it. It could be arguably the most perfect thing I've ever seen before in my life. I brought my foot up and slammed it into the glass as hard as I could. Still not a single crack on it, not even a speck of dirt as I brought my foot back again. “What the hell's going on?!” I slammed my forearms down on the mirror in confused rage and clenched my eyes shut tight. All this... all this terror... all these years of running from monsters in my mind... was it all for nothing...? I know I was just imagining it all but...
I sighed and gently pounded my fist against the glass of the pristine mirror. Nothing. Nothing at all would leave a smudge on the damn thing. There was nothing I could do. I didn't want to move, for I feared in the back of my mind leaving the soft, almost protective, glow of the mirror before me. Seconds... Minutes... It seemed to be forever I stood there, slowly adapting to the area around me, letting my body relax and calm down. All this work for nothing...? What did he mean that I wouldn't be ready, there's nothing here to face or fight... The only real monsters that I would be destroying I would have to imagine up just to get rid of!
... Wait. Rewind. Imagining... I was imagining it all. I knew that, but.. What does this mean? I opened my eyes and looked up into my reflection's eyes. The gears in my head began turning as I was left there alone with my thoughts once again. Every small detail my brain began to process over and link together.
Fear. Phobias. Since I was a child I was diagnosed by them. Fear is only there if you make it there. Phobias.
Achluophobia, Arachnophobia, Autophobia, Batophobia, Bogyphobia, Catoptrophobia, Claustrophobia, Coimetrophobia, Enochlophobia.
Goodbye. Matt said goodbye. I said goodbye. "It'll only make things worse," he said. He was always there when I needed him, never asked for anything in return. People always teased him and looked at us strangely whenever we walked to class together. My other friends never even spoke to him whenever I wasn't around. I had every class with him.
Gelotophobia, Hadephobia, Hematophobia, Herpetophobia, Hypnophobia, Kenophobia, Nebulaphobia, Necrophobia, Nyctohylophobia, Nyctophobia, Ophthalmophobia...
I clenched my eyes shut and pressed my face harder against the glass of the mirror. From under me I could hear a soft cracking at the seemingly unbreakable glass.
My medication. I took it without question. I never even looked it over out of curiosity. I took it blindly just because I was told to. I hate being alone, it leaves me to my own thoughts.
Parasitophobia, Pneumatiphobia, Pteromerhanophobia, Pupaphobia, Pyrophobia, Sciaphobia, Seplophobia, Taphophobia.
Matt never left my side. He was in shambles when I saw him. A mirror... myself... darkness... Nothing was here except for a mirror. No monsters, nothing at all. Just myself and my thoughts alone.
Thantophobia, Xyrophobia, Zeusophobia, Zoophobia. All the phobias I know... Yet always missing one. Just... one... what was it...?!
Another larger crack at the mirror under me, the etches in the glass growing from small to wide almost instantly.
A mirror... no creatures of nightmare... left alone in darkness. Alone... Goodbye... Matt was broken. Mirror's breaking... Nobody responded to him... He never talked to anyone else... unbreakable... I imagined all my nightmares. Fears can be made by imagining fears. Matt was always there for me... Always there.
Crack... creak... snap... the long lines in the glass grew longer and longer by the second. The more I thought about all these facts, the more these small details whirled in my brain.
I imagined all my nightmares. I imagined all my fears. They were always changing depending on what I thought of. All my diagnosed phobias. I imagined them all. Every time I got killed no one was there. Matt was in chains... he was all broken and bleeding. We said goodbye... Matt... He said it would only make things worse.
The cracks in the previously pristine glass now reached over towards the edge of the frame on some of the sides... They continued to branch apart and connect over time, one small singular fragment chipping off and falling down to the ground by my feet.
Fear... I Imagined it all. Broken... What... what was that last fear. I was always getting killed.. I was afraid of death. I wasn't afraid when I came here... Matt... I imagined it all.
D... Dement... Demented...? No...
The entire mirror filled with cracks and the snapping became almost melodious to me now, filling in the spaces of my broken thoughts.
I was scared when I came here. Scared of what? I didn't know what to find. It only made things worse. They're all trying to kill me. I Imagined everything up. My fears were all fake...
The fear of insanity.
“No... NO!” I raised my hand up and slammed it down into the glass, sending the shards shattering to the ground and crackling over my shoes. For once in what had to have been years, I felt tears stream down my face.
I imagined it all up. My nightmares... My fears... My... my friend... No... he... NO!
I spun away from the mirror and sprinted away to return down the end of the hall. Smack. I ran into a tall brick wall that was now blocking my way into the hall. I slammed my fists into the cold, unforgiving blockade hard. I wanted Matt back. I wasn't ready to leave him behind. I... I need him! He was my only friend!
“LET ME GO! MATT! Matt, please! I'm sorry! I didn't listen!” I slammed my now bruised and bleeding fist into the wall hard, tears flowing freely down my face. I now knew all I needed to know. And now... My friend... my only friend... is gone...
They were going to kill me.
They were going to kill Matt...
I imagined the whole thing.
It was all just a big game...
The fear... the fear of insanity...
“I'm... I'm crazy... I'm absolutely fucking nuts...” My watery eyes followed the long trail of blood that dripped from my hand, down the cold brick wall and down to the darkening tile floor beneath me. The glowing from the mirror was now starting to fade and darkness was beginning to consume the area around me again.
I... Just wanted a friend... He came to help me conquer my fears... He was only there because I needed him...
Wait… Oh God...
What else did I imagine... What was real? What was my imagination?
Puppets... Mr. Stone... They were all trying to kill me. Matt pushed them all back. Mr. Stone listened to him. Matt... Stone let Matt take me to the office. He didn't question him…
They were all trying to kill me. That thing told me they were. Matt told me I would hurt myself. He was there warning me. He wanted me to figure all this out but he didn't want me to leave him. He was the thing from the nurse's office. He was trying to protect me. They were all trying to kill me. He wanted me to kill them. He wanted to protect me. They were all trying to kill me... trying to kill him...
“AUGH!” I gripped onto my head in pain, all these questions and broken thoughts were driving me nuts in that darkness I stood in alone. What was real and what was fake?! What were my dreams and what were my realities?!
Everything was blending around in chaos in my mind. What if my reality was the hell that I thought were my dreams, and my dreams were the blissful times of peace that I spent with Matt? What if everything WAS trying to kill me and Matt was there warning me the whole time as that demonic voice to get my attention...?!
And now I just killed Matt! He died because of me! Now I’m all alone and...!
My body stiffened at the sudden familiar voice from behind me. My crushing grip on my greying hair loosened before I eventually let go completely. N... No way... could it be...? I slowly turned my head before moving my entire body to face the source of the voice.
“... M... Matt...?”
The shatters of glass that were still surrounding the broken mirror on the wall across from me began to regain their glow from before, even in their shattered, bloodied state. Their glow radiated dimly and I slowly plodded over to it, I felt drawn over to the soft light like a moth to a flame. A faded form appeared over the glowing light, like it were a being purely created from it.
It was Matt, but it wasn’t the Matt I once knew before. His form was void of all color and he was now a form of dull, darkened greys. His eyes were dead and dark, and the blood from before was completely gone from his form. He smiled at me, in that same way he always used to before, “You’re not alone, ya know. I’m still here, even if I’m not really,” he stated dully with a grim chuckle. He scratched the back of his head casually as he continued, “I knew you'd miss me, ya big dope. But I wanted you to figure all this out. And trust me, I know a lot of it still doesn't make sense...”
I stayed silent as he paused, his form was slowly darkening so it looked like he were reforming from shadows themselves, “Ya know what though? I'm not really gonna be gone like you think I am! Hell, you can't get rid of me even if you wanted to! Good news for you, but I can't play with you anymore unless you promise me somethin', alright?” He closed his eyes for a moment before opening them back up and locking them onto my own. His eyes seemed to hold a deathly eeriness to them now, like they weren't human at all, but more like a spirit's or some kind of demon's.
“You're gonna have to play by my rules now, Marcus. You've spent your whole life running, well now it's time to make a deal, alright? I'll let you play with my toys if you stop running away from all your fears, okay?” I wiped my watery eyes and looked up into those now serious eyes in confusion, “T... Toys...? Game...? What are you talking about, Matt? What's all this about?” He just laughed and shook his head at me, he seemed to know this upset me still, but continued anyway, “What, you still didn't get that? Remember back in the office?”
He raised his hand up and I felt a sense of déjà vu as the rather disturbingly familiar tendrils of shadows started to slither up my legs like before in the nurse's office. Now they weren’t harsh and pulling, though, now they almost seemed gentle and yet firm as they held me to the ground before Matt. “People can't see me or hear me, you got that much. But I still have a few tricks up my sleeve that everybody can be victim to if I want!” I looked down at the shadows holding me firmly against the ground before returning my gaze back up to Matt's, “... What... are you...?”
He chuckled a bit under his breath at my simple question, “You're not ready for that yet, Marcus. I'll tell you some other time when you are.” I snorted at his unhelpful response. My eyes followed his every action as he reached his hand out to me, small wisps of fog-like shadows occasionally “dripping” off from his form, “So here's my deal: I'll stick around and hang out with you, but you have to keep both me and you safe. If you do, I'll even let you use my little shadow-bending as a toy so we can have more fun when we play. But if you don't, I'll leave, and I'll even help take away all your little nightmares from now on so you can see how lovely reality really is.” His grin widened a bit crookedly on his face as he kept his gaze locked onto my eyes fiercely.
I couldn’t move now with those things holding me to the ground, so I had to now make a decision.
I can either end it all here and finally have my questions answered, live life as a normal high school kid, and never see him again, or I could have him stay as my friend, play his little games, and stay in my haunting little madhouse cracked between dream and reality.
... What can I say, I made it this far, what did I have to lose?
“... Alright. You got a deal.” Those words, those five, simple words were our binding contract as I reached up and clutched his icy, shadowy hand. I felt the shadows that consumed over my legs start to grow and spread over my body, encasing me in their freezing, bitter embrace and locking away the last few specks of light from my vision... It felt like drifting into the lowest level of the ocean, no air, no light, just floating down into a deep, choking abyss...
“Sweetie, is everything alright?” My eyes slowly opened as I finally reawakened back to the nurse's office like nothing had happened. But oh, things were much different now, no matter how normal I looked on the outside. The entire world looked faded to me now, like somebody was sketching out my vision and shaded everything too much; I was seeing things through Matt’s eyes. So this is how it felt to be in another person’s shoes.
I hopped off the examination bed and looked over into the elderly nurse's eyes. She must have seen something different about me then, for she quickly looked away and began to slowly shuffle over to the closet door to the end of the room. “... Ehm... Well, your mother came while you were asleep and she delivered some new medicine for you, dear. Unfortunately it’s an injection, so I’m going to have to get some things before I can give it to you, okay?
She’s going to kill us, Marcus...
I was still in control of my body, but now I felt a new, unfamiliar, dare I say even unnatural, strength running through my veins. The shadows around the room almost seemed to pulse with life and obey my commands, like an extra set of limbs, as they slided along the pale tile floor and shifted over to the nurse's feet, who was currently distracted with unlocking and opening the door to the cabinet.
I felt my fingers tightly clutched over something long and sharp and I looked down into my hand, my fingers gripping onto a shard of what looked like a broken mirror. In that brief reflection I saw what I had become; I had become everything I had ever truly feared.
My eyes were no longer the bright aqua they once were, they were now a dull grey-green hue that almost seemed too perfect for me now. My face was void of all expression, I could feel that much already though. I looked up from the shard of glass and towards my new enemy, a small smile moved over my face, one that felt familiar, yet not my own. I wasn't afraid anymore... I had become everything I had ever really feared in the beginning.
Dementophobia – the fear of insanity.