We've all had those times, late at night. Maybe you're a little tired, and you turned off your lamp to help you relax, so it's just you and the dull glow of the screen. You hear a little noise behind you and jump. You turn around, and there's a jet-black silhouette of a man in the corner. But as your eyes focus, you realize it's only just your curtain. Damn cat was playing with it again, got it all twisted up. The house was just settling, and your mind jumped to a dark place. Nothing to be afraid of, not really.
That's pareidolia. It happens to everybody at some point, so you shrug it off and go on with your day.
But what if you don't? Is there a tiny, slim chance that you're getting a peek behind the veil of reality, just for a split second? There on the edge of your awareness, where shapes become ambiguous and the rational part of your brain thinks it isn't worth the effort ... maybe that's where the monsters live. So you start paying a little more attention. Maybe you're the kind that's afraid of missing out on something, even if that something wants to shove thumbtacks under your eyelids.
Maybe that's just me.
The days go by, and you've always got one little corner of your mind focused on that fuzzy line where vision ends. Nothing noteworthy happens for the longest time, and you start telling yourself what a silly idea this was. Monsters? Please. Just when you start to lay the idea to rest for good, it happens again. A dark shape, something less than a man but more than an animal. Two coal-red eyes that ooze hunger. Still, it's only a vague impression of evil. You whip your head around, your heart hammering at your ears. Just the damn lamp.
Maybe your brain is just showing you what you expect to be there, you reason. After all, the mind plays tricks to keep reality in line with expectations. Still, you're really interested now. Whatever this is has your attention, and you've never been able to let a thing rest once it piques your curiosity.
You become even more vigilant. In the back of your mind, you take stock of your peripheral vision. You try to push out further, expanding your vision beyond that impossible-to-place boundary between sight and darkness. You're dedicated to this crazy task now. For nearly three weeks straight you probe, but to no avail. The curtain isn't drawing back any further. You see nothing out of the ordinary, so you give it a rest, once and for all. It's silly to think there's some hidden place between realities, that of billions and billions of people you're the first to notice. You always wanted to be special, didn't you?
So you go back to the humdrum of daily routine. Maybe you were just bored. And then one night, you're back at the computer reading about some political snafu in the Middle-East. You're not really into it, but you couldn't be bothered to find something better to do, not right before bed. The room is dark. It's just like that first night, you muse. The creature colored like television static standing at your shoulder nods slowly and wait that's not right.
You jump sideways, twisting as you fall. Nothing there, but nothing in its place either. No lamp, no curtain, no poster, nothing but air in that empty space where it stood. You stare for a good while, rubbing the nasty bump on your head. Finally, you step to the kitchen to grab an ice pack from the freezer. Troubled thoughts twist at your brain. Two is a coincidence; three is a trend. You're hooked now. Maybe your mom always told you to quit while you were ahead.
Maybe that's just me.
You're beginning to see the pattern. Nothing happens when you're really paying attention. When you're waking up, in that time before your brain clicks on, when the sun is just rising? Sure. When your guard is down and you're halfway to daydreaming? Definitely. In those gaps where your critical mind gets childlike, that's where the cracks start to show. And weren't there monsters in your closet when you were little, before you knew better?
You're at the office the next day, typing away at your computer. Your brain disengages, and you think back to the night before. It still has you spooked. A thought zigs by, and you're reminded of those nights laying in bed when you were just smack between awareness and dreaming: you could watch your body relax and your breathing even out. Kind of like walking the edge of a razorblade. So, god help you, you start practicing. It's kind of like meditation. You spend some time every morning and night lounging in bed, drinking in that feeling of being on the edge of wakefulness. You can feel it like an intuition, and you start recalling that body memory in the office while you're filling out your busywork.
One fine morning, you're doing your practice and a gaunt, lanky creature with skin the palest white and black holes where its eyes should be strolls past the opening of your cubicle - just to your right, plain as day. You nearly repeat the stunt with the chair again, but you manage to land square on your feet this time. You peek your head around the cubicle wall, and see the back of your coworker Craig as he walks away. He slows to a halt, looks over his shoulder, and gives you a wink before continuing on his way. You and Craig aren't that friendly, and you think you see a smirk on his face. But he was too quick for you to get a good look.
It's just your imagination, right?