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I don’t like living alone.
I mean, it has its advantages: more privacy, more time to myself, more time to be myself. I just can’t get rid of this damn feeling inside. This horrible mixture of loneliness and dread that seems to haunt me. I don’t know what exactly I’m dreading, but I just can’t help feeling like something wasn’t quite right. My name is Justin Lorne, and I have been stuck in this state of mind for a couple of weeks now. It’s affecting my sleep patterns drastically; I haven’t had a good sleep in weeks and I’m really starting to feel the effects. Other than that, my life is pretty normal. The only thing that is strange about me is the fact that I have no friends. Well, I have my best friend Emma, but she lives in another country. So basically I have learned to enjoy my own company, because that’s all I really have left.
It was reaching the end of Autumn, not like it mattered. My daily routine was always the same, no matter the season. I woke up, I ate, I watched television, I ate again, then I slept. Every single day. Because of this, I usually notice when things change. I hadn’t noticed any change for a while now, that was until the first night of Winter, when everything changed for the worse.
The walls. The walls were the first thing I noticed. It was almost unmistakable, and yet it took me all night to see it. I should have seen the warning signs and fled, but it’s too late now. I just can’t help but think how things could have been different if I had just noticed the damn walls. The air was thick with moisture and the walls were damp with small droplets of water. The warmth of the house seeped away and was replaced with a still coldness. I shouldn’t have just stood there, but ignorant little me thought it was a good idea to do absolutely nothing. That’s when I heard the whispers. The soft, incomprehensible whispers that surrounded me. I whipped my head around to see if anyone was there... there wasn’t.
Then it came. It came through the window on the other side of the hallway, and at first it just stared at me. It was a humanoid figure but its body was severely disfigured, with deep black skin covering it. Its bones stuck out at odd angles and its skin looked like it was the only thing keeping it in one piece. The most horrific thing about the creature was its expression: a sunken face, twisted with agony and pain. I couldn’t stop staring at its face, even as it moved towards me. When I say ‘moved’, I’m not talking about just plain walking or floating, it sort of... jittered towards me, like a terrible stop-motion animation. That’s when I realised the situation I was in and my survival instincts kicked in. The only problem was I couldn’t move. I was paralyzed on the spot, my only movement being the rise and fall of my chest as I tried to breathe.
The figure moved closer towards me and I felt like I was being choked. As the figure continued to advance towards me, I noticed its hands... its claws. They were long and pointed, dangling beside its body like a dead weight. The whispers became louder, and I started to make out a few words. Cold... So cold... These words repeated over and over again. The figure was only an arms length away from me, and all I could do was gaze into its deep black eyes. It stared at me with that horrible expression, like it was studying me. By now I was gasping for breath as something was cutting off my air supply. I wished that it would hurry up and finish me off, just wanting it to end, but it didn't. It just turned away and jittered to the window through which it came. It gave me one last curious look, then left. The world around me faded to black and I collapsed to the floor, welcoming the darkness.
I awoke to the faint beep of the phone in my pocket. Sitting up, I tried to recollect the memories from the previous night, but a growing headache rendered that feat almost impossible. I took out my phone, sighing when I realised the screen had been smashed. I must have landed pretty hard on the ground when I fainted. The time on my phone read 2:11pm, so I then worked out that I had been out for nearly 12 hours. I looked at the messages on my phone, and was surprised when I saw one from Emma. I hadn’t heard from her in months; the last I'd heard, she was moving into her new apartment in New York. I started to read the message, and when I finished, I had a huge smile on my face.
“Hey Justin! Sorry I haven’t spoken to you for ages, I’ve been really busy the past few months. So to make it up to you, I’m coming over to Australia to visit you! It’s only for a month, but I’m sure that’s plenty of time for us to catch up. I’m just about to board the plane, I’ll meet you at your place at about 10am tomorrow. See you then!”
She couldn’t have come at a better time! I wondered if she would believe me if I told her what had happened to me last night. It was worth a shot, I’d just have to find the right time to ask. At least I could get it off my chest, it felt horrible not being able to tell anyone. I went into the kitchen and made myself some coffee, maybe that would wake me up a bit more. After a while, my mind started to work properly again. What about tonight? Would that thing come back? What if it doesn’t leave this time, and tries to do something horrible to me? The only solution I could think of was to stay in a hotel just for the night.
A couple of minutes passed and I decided to stay, but I’d have to take some extra precautions. Putting a lock on my bedroom door and windows would work, I thought. So I spent an hour making sure that every window and door in my bedroom was secured with a lock. I started to feel more at ease, and spent the rest of the day watching television. Before I went to bed, I locked everything and prepared myself for what would probably be another sleepless night.
It felt like I had only just laid my head on my pillow before I awoke to the sound of the doorbell. So much for sleepless, I thought. I checked the time on my alarm clock. 10:00am already! I could hear Emma calling out my name from the front door so I called back to her to wait a minute as I quickly got dressed. I stumbled down the stairs, still trying to thread a belt through my jeans. I opened the door and Emma was standing there with a huge grin on her face. She squealed out my name as she embraced me in a warm and friendly hug. I would’ve been that excited too, but I still felt like I hadn’t slept in weeks.
It was obviously showing, because Emma gave me a worried look and said, “Wow, you look terrible! No offence.”
“None taken. I haven’t been sleeping very well for months.”
She gave me a sympathetic smile.
“Well hopefully you can sleep better with me back in the country. If you ever need something, I’m staying in the hotel in town.”
“There’s no need for that! You can stay with me while you’re here, it’s the least I can do!”
“Are you sure? I don’t want to feel like I’m intruding or anything.”
“You kidding me? I’d love to have you stay with me! It’ll be a relief to have some company for once. Plus I have a spare room you can stay in upstairs.”
“Well, okay. If you insist!” she said with a smile. I showed her the room she would be staying in, and after that we sat around the kitchen table, catching up on all the things we had missed ever since she left.
For the next few days, I was happier than I had been for what seemed like forever. It was full of fun, laughter and a whole lot of talking. She told me about all the amazing things she had accomplished while living in America, and I told her about all the ordinary things I had been doing while she was gone. She still listened with complete interest, even though everything I had to say wasn’t interesting at all compared to her stories. On day number 4 of her visit, I decided it was the right time to tell her about the horrible experience I’d had with the creature that had visited me a few nights ago.
I was expecting her to laugh and make jokes about it after I finished telling her, but she did the complete opposite. She was genuinely concerned, and asked many questions. I had trouble answering some of them as my memories were blurry. She suggested that I might have been having some sort of hallucination caused by my lack of sleep. This was a plausible explanation, so I believed it, at least for a while. I felt so naive afterwards; I couldn't believe I had thought it was real! But now I wish I hadn’t doubted myself. If only I hadn’t shrugged off the event as a hallucination so quickly maybe I could have stopped it. Now I understand the enormity of my mistake, and I know I can never go back to fix it.
It was very subtle at first. I thought the heater had malfunctioned as the air was quite cold, but when I went out to check, it was working perfectly fine. It was the middle of the night, and I could hear Emma snoring in the room across from mine. She might seem all graceful, but damn that girl could snore! I was surprised she hadn’t woken up the neighbours, even though they were a kilometre and a half away.
Surprisingly I was able to sleep through it. I guess it let me know that I wasn’t alone, and that comforted me. I got back into bed and slept for about 3 hours before I was awoken again. This time, the air wasn’t just a bit cold, it was freezing. I put on some clothes and went outside to see what was causing the change in temperature. That’s when I noticed what was happening, or to be more exact, what wasn’t happening. The house was completely silent.
At first my brain didn’t register the absence of noise, and when I did realise, I panicked. By now I had started to notice everything; the damp walls, the soft whispers. I crept over to her door, choking back a yell when I noticed it was ajar. I took a deep breath and slowly pushed the door open. Emma was pinned high against the wall by what seemed like an unknown force. I was about to run in and help her, but before I could take my first step, I made eye contact with the figure of my nightmares. It turned its head to look at me, and with its haunting gaze boring into my brain, it slightly tilted its head with an almost curiosity. One of its arms was in the air, aimed at Emma. It was somehow keeping her pinned to the wall by just merely pointing to her.
Yet again I was paralyzed on the spot, no way of escaping what was about to happen. Emma was silently crying, her face contorted with pain. The abhorrent creature jittered over to her, maintaining eye contact with me. Feelings of dread swept over my body. I wanted to scream at it, to order it to not hurt her, to make it leave us alone, but all I could manage was a gurgled cry. It lifted its claw and placed the tip of one of its talons in the middle of her chest. The creature looked at me as if it was daring me to do something. By now Emma was shaking uncontrollably, her eyes begging me for help. Without even a change of expression, the creature pushed its talon deep into her chest.
She tried to scream but the creature had already dissected her vocal chords. Her eyes bulged and a thin river of dark red blood flowed down her body and onto the floor. The creature moved its talon lower making a deep incision down her body. The thick blood was flowing, pooling on the ground below, staining it with a deep red. I started retching uncontrollably, tears running down my face. Emma’s face turned white, her life seeping away as the creature dropped her to the ground with a sickening thud. It lowered its arm and looked over at her lifeless body. It just stared at her for what seemed like hours. By now I couldn’t feel anything, completely devoid of emotion. I welcomed the numbness, it gave me release from the intense emotion that had been racing through my body. Then the creature moved away, jittering over Emma’s body like nothing had even happened. It stood by her bed, admiring the work it had done. It looked back up at me and I felt a weight being lifted off my shoulders. That’s when I collapsed to the ground.
I started to vomit, adding to the gruesome mixture of blood and tears. The creature was giving me an opportunity to escape, the reason why, I will never quite know. It was most likely doing it just for the added satisfaction of hunting me down. No matter what its motive, I knew I could not let it do to me what it did to Emma. I shakily got up on two feet and tried to walk down the stairs to the front door. My legs started to falter and I collapsed multiple times. I could feel the chill on the back of my neck and I knew it was starting to come after me. A shot of adrenaline shot through me, my only objective now was survival. When I finally got to the door, I grabbed my car keys and ran to my car, planning to get as far away from the creature as possible.
I fumbled with the key, trying to put it in the ignition. With a turn of my wrist the car hummed into life. I slammed down the accelerator and sharply turned the car onto the road. My hands were still shaking, and I had trouble changing gears. The full emotional effects from the incident were starting to show as I sobbed loudly. I was almost on the verge of a breakdown but I tried to keep myself together as I needed to focus on driving. The trees whizzed past me and I saw a sign on the side of the road. Only 6 more kilometers and would be in the city. I turned on the radio which helped me to calm down slightly. I reached over to the volume dial, looking away from the road for a split second.
When I looked back up, the creatures face was staring back at me. I cried out and turned the wheel sharply to the left, trying to avoid hitting it. The car rolled and I hit my head on the roof of the car. My sense of direction failed me and I had no idea which way was up. There was a cut above my eyebrow, blood gushing down my face. The car came to a halt as it smashed into a tree and I was thrown halfway out the front window. I screamed as the jagged glass cut into my flesh. I dragged myself out and onto the icy grass below. The trees around me were wilting, the leaves disintegrating as the trees became coated in ice. It started to snow like a blizzard, which was highly unnatural around these parts. I knew it was coming, and I had no time to check my wounds, so I ran.
I ran for my life through the trees in a chaotic manner, trying to dodge all the thick roots and foliage that covered the ground. I could hear its whispering, the dreadful noise flooding my senses. My legs were tired and my lungs were burning. I knew I couldn't run much longer, and yet I still kept trying to get away. I didn't want a gruesome death like Emma’s, I wanted to live, I just wanted to live. The pain in my sides was making me run slower, until I was only going as fast as a brisk walk.
That’s when I gave in, surrendering my body to the creature by dropping to the cold earth below. I was breathing hard and fast, trying to get as much oxygen into me as possible. When I looked up, the creature was already towering over me. It reflected my expression of desperation in its cold, emotionless eyes. It didn’t waste any time trying to taunt me, instead, it immediately stabbed me through my chest with its talon. It didn’t need to sever my vocal chords, as no one would hear me scream in the dense forest.
I watched the blood flow out of me as ripples of excruciating pain shot through my body. Then the creature did the unimaginable. It got down and started drinking. As soon as my blood entered its mouth, its face started to gain color, its expression no longer full of suffering and depression. The pain was so intense that I began to welcome death, but it never came. By the time it was finished, I stopped feeling pain. The only thing I felt was the cold. I was so cold. The thing was no longer a creature, but instead human. “Warmth”, he whispered, his voice tinged with happiness. I looked at my own body, and noticed my skin was a deep black color. All my limbs were distorted, my arms too long for my body. When I stopped examining myself, I noticed the man was still standing there. He gave me an apologetic glance as he said one last thing before running back through the forest, following my trail of blood:
I'm so cold...
I jittered through the dark city streets, looking for someone to help me. I knew what I had to do, and it horrified me. I’m not that kind of person. But then again, I’m not even a person anymore, I’m not human. I have been following her for weeks, a single mother, living with her two children in an apartment in the city. I have been watching her every night while she slept. She wakes up multiple times during the night, but when she’s asleep, she looks so... peaceful. I wished I could feel peace. All I can feel is cold. She looked so warm, and I envied her. That envy turned into hatred, and all I could think about was how much I longed for her warmth. Tonight was the night I was going to take that from her. Tonight I was going to do what had to be done.
This time, she won’t even have time to scream.