Pat felt reassured that it would be a pretty easygoing day as soon as Sara entered the kitchen, visibly having just showered.
"Morning," Pat greeted from the sink as she emptied the remains of her breakfast into the trash disposal.
"Yeah, yeah it is morning," Sara considered. "It's too cold to be afternoon, and the sun's up, so it's not night. It must be morning, yeah."
Pat rolled her eyes. "Awesome deduction, genius. So, who or what can I thank for you having showered today?"
"I didn't hear them when I woke up!" Sara declared proudly. "...And it seemed like a good idea at the time!"
"Trust me, it was," Pat laughed. "You remembered your medication, right?"
"I remembered them and I took them," Sara said matter-of-factly.
Pat smiled to herself as she washed her plate. Sara appeared to dwell on the borders of happy that morning.
On her way down the street of luck, Sara hit approximately every obstacle there. In the seventh year of her childhood she received a generous coronation in the form of a capricious, conceited, and fickle witch of a stepmother, and at 13 she was diagnosed with a virulent case of schizophrenia. The next 4 years were a blur of unpleasant side effects and cold silence at the dining table, as her doctors tried to find a cocktail of different prescriptions that wouldn't nearly kill her every time she took them, and her stepmother did her best to finish the job.
It had been the previous year that Pat had met Sara, during their third week of class. She had been there for Sara at every turn, which was a rarity in her fucked up life. Now, in their second year of college, Sara was flourishing in her Graphic Design major, her meds were actually working, and symptoms were more than manageable. The handiwork was admirable, to say the least.
Sara had been thinking about something that was nothing, really, but she was snapped back to reality by a drop of cold water snaking down her back, having emerged from long hazel hair that was still wet from the shower. She noticed she was hungry, and hungry people tend to eat, so she figured it'd be a good idea to do just that.
She fished a couple of blueberry Pop Tarts out of one of the cupboards and took a bite out of both at once, without toasting them. Sara felt a rush of sweetness as she chewed, the refreshing, vibrant taste of the blueberry filling rising from a subtle foundation of the bread. She adored Pop Tarts.
"Take your time," Pat half-pleaded. "I really don't feel like going to classes today."
"Why don't we just not go?"
"I wish that were an option..."
Sara waited for further elaboration, but realized that was it and just shrugged. Sara liked Pat not just because of how similar they were, and how well they got along, but because she never heard any voices when Pat was around. It was so easy to focus on her, on the warmth of her smile, the almost tangible support she never failed to provide. She was more than a good friend; she was a tether to everything Sara felt thankful for in her life.
It was sort of funny; she couldn't actually remember how they'd met. She felt like she'd just dropped into her life one day. That's schizophrenia.
She finished her breakfast, savoring as much as possible the final bite, and shouldered her backpack. Pat did the same, stuffing in a large, faded, ratty old book she had checked out from the library. Sara just barely made out what looked like a form of Wiccan star before it sunk below sight.
"More occult stuff?" she asked.
"It's not occult stuff!" Pat protested, rolling her eyes, albeit smiling. "It's just really interesting historical info and...stuff."
They both laughed.
"And besides," Pat continued, "it's for my seminar course. An Introduction to the Mystical and Occult!" She wiggled her fingers at Sara for emphasis.
With that, Pat led the way out the apartment door. Sara wrapped her scarf around her neck as regally as she could manage and followed.
She stopped dead in her tracks when she heard it. Any other person might've also snapped their neck around to search for the source, but Sara was used to hearing whispers. This one had been different, though. Not as distant. It had been a single bark, harsh and unintelligible, more of a hiss than a real word. Right in her ear.
For a moment she felt...off, somehow, but that was just her. Or it wasn't her, since it was off. Still, nothing to worry about.
She shrugged and looked at the back of Pat's head as she walked down the hallway towards the stairs, and she was pleased that the only whisper she heard then was that of the wind outside.
"The golden ratio is used in mathematics, but it has a surprising number of applications in graphic design as well; the golden ratio can help you make order out of what looks like chaos and create an attractive and engaging layout..."
The professor had said the same thing the day before, so Sara focused more on her laptop than his words. She had chosen a nice pattern; or was it a pretty one? The layout on her page was inspired either way, so she began to type out the article the professor had provided. It wasn't a very interesting one.
She was seven words in when she heard the whisper again.
Sara did little more than wince at the unexpected occurrence; probably the rest of the class just screwing with her. They didn't think much of the weird girl. She ignored it and set her fingers on the keys to continue, and almost thought she felt the freezing breath of another whisper sway the hair around her ear. It had grown into a low, constant drone. Sara gritted her teeth. Pat was in Biochemistry and she hadn't brought the medications, because she didn't normally need to. She was on her own. She clenched her jaw hard and focused on only on her screen.
The whispering was now a cacophony, what sounded like dozens of voices speaking at once, trying to be heard over one another and letting nothing be discerned. Sara's monitor seemed to blur in her vision, but she kept typing, her fingers slamming into the keys with frantic force.
They want to be real but they're not...they're not...they're not...
Sara knew that the voices would go away if she didn't talk to them. She typed. Hands seemed to grip her all over, long spindly fingers gripping at her arms, her legs, swimming through her hair, tearing at her clothes. She could feel them crawling across her form like desperate insects in the rain. Sara shut her eyes and let out a deep breath; they're ALL not real and she knew it. If she could just get this class over-
She opened her eyes and the hands felt gone. The whispers had quieted, but remained, like a crowd waiting for a speaker to begin.
Professor Elton hovered in front of Sara's desk, his features arranged to spell concern.
Shit, the professor, Sara thought.
He looks worried; we kinda worried him, Sara added.
Well, maybe he should fuck off and mind his own business, Sara interjected angrily.
"Sara, are you alright?"
Quickly, she shut the other two up and made an effort to clear her head. Shook it once, twice. She saw then that she had actually broken several of her laptop's keys. She inspected the tips of her fingers to find them all an offensive shade of purple. The class was quiet. Everyone was looking at her.
"It's okay, Professor," Sara finally responded, forcing her voice not to tremble and turning up to face him. "I remembered to sho-"
No face. Just a dozen small mouths dotted the professor's visage, circular, hundreds of small yellow razor-sharp teeth lining slimy gray walls of flesh. The rows of teeth vibrated from side to side without pause. The whispers-the screams-emanated from the grisly craters.
Sara actually felt the tangible weight of terror as it rushed into her being in a torrent.
NO. Sara forced herself to think. NOT REAL. NOT REAL.
Run, responded Sara.
RUN, Sara agreed.
And despite her certainty, Sara gathered her things, scrambled up and ran. Her footfalls echoed sharply in the silence that only she could not hear.
This issue fucking sucked.
Aw, that's no fair! I liked it!
You like everything.
I think you're not being fair.
WELL, I THINK YOU'RE BOTH VERY FUCKING ANNOYING.
Sara wasn't going to let those two ruin the manga she was trying to enjoy before falling asleep. She'd had a very fucking long day and wasn't in the mood for more.
She'd returned home earlier that day to find Pat already there, whom questioned her on her shaken appearance with innate worry. Sara refused to admit anything was wrong, but in light of the circumstances, she'd skipped her afternoon classes and stayed with Sara the rest of the day, ordering Burger King and watching movies.
Sara absentmindedly clenched her hand into a fist, only to wince as her bruised fingertips cried out indignantly. She inspected them and sighed.
How the fuck did that even happen? she thought.
She hadn't heard anything that intense in months, and she definitely hadn't seen anything in almost a year. She hoped it wasn't her medication. It had taken her psychiatrist years to find the right prescription the first time, and this one worked so well she now only had to go in for a checkup every two weeks.
She let herself fall back onto her pillow and stared at the ceiling, trying to clear her head.
Her blood froze as she found the ceiling occupied.
Sara almost choked on the sharp gasp of air she took to keep from screaming and shut her eyes, knowing the thing wanted to be real but it wasn't and it couldn't be and it'd be not real when she opened her eyes and it wouldn't be there. She took a deep breath and opened her eyes.
It had no legs; only three pairs of impossibly long arms that congregated at a human torso at random angles. They seemed to have no coordination; some jerked rapidly forward and back again, while others slithered slowly across the ceiling, while others moved not at all. It's skin was a sickly, translucent gray that failed to hide the yellow hue of its innards.
Its head was worse. It had no visible features save for the gaping circular mouth that took up its whole "face." Again it was slimy gray and brimming with teeth, and again dozens of voices oozed out as if desperate for liberty. The chorus filled her with a sense of agony and hopelessness, as if she had put an ear to the ground and caught the sound of Hell.
The warped nightmare ever so slowly released four of its six arms and began to lower itself towards Sara.
It was all she could do to not scream.
The arms came closer. She saw that the thing was covered in tiny white bristly hairs, like some grisly mock of a spider.
Not real, not real not real
Its face was a foot from hers. She opened her adamantly shut eyes for just a second and unwillingly discovered the single, fully dark green eye at the bottom of the pit of teeth.
Her eyes flew open. The lights were suddenly on. There was no sign of it on the ceiling, or anywhere else in her room.
Pat was shaking her by the shoulders, looking at her like she was coming apart at the seams.
"Sara, what's wrong? What's the matter??"
"N-nothing," Sara managed. "I'm-I'm fine."
"You are not fine!" Pat replied angrily.
"It was just-just a nightmare," she said, steadier this time. "I'm fine." She added this with a touch of anger. She loved Pat, but she hated having to depend on her. She'd spent too long depending on others.
"Oh, really???" Pat quickly walked out of the room. Seconds later, she returned with a hand mirror. She held it up to Sara's face. "Look at yourself!"
Sara was floored by her reflection. Her expression was almost blank, which contrasted wildly with her rapid breathing and the trails of shining moisture down each of her cheeks. Her eyes were darting from side to side without pause, as if they could no longer stand the confines of their sockets. She realized she was trembling. Her heart hammered out an allegro in her chest.
"You were screaming 'not real!' over and over again," Pat said, softer than before.
She took several long breaths to steady her heart; all the while Pat stood there, waiting.
"Look I...I just-I saw something, okay?" She closed her eyes and took another breath. Adrenaline still rushed through her veins, and she felt like her stomach might refund her its contents at any moment. "I saw something and I freaked out a little. It wasn't real. I'm-I'm probably just tired after today. I promise, I'll be fine. Please, just-just lemme sleep. I really don't want to talk about it."
Pat's expression hardened and she opened her mouth to argue, but she must've seen something in Sara's expression, because she pursed her lips and closed her eyes for a second.
"Fine," she finally said, frustrated. "But we will discuss this later." With that, she walked out, turning the light off and shutting the door.
For a few minutes, Sara just sat there, covers held up to her chin, letting the leftover fear drain out. Finally, she lay back, turned to face the wall, and closed her eyes, hoping for a good night's rest to fix this.
Briefly, she felt a slight breeze across the back of her neck. She could've sworn she'd shut the window.
Sara did not get a good night's rest.
She had risen in the morning more like a zombie than a person, and without showering or brushing her teeth, she threw on the first handful of clothes she had fished out of her closet and left without breakfast to avoid having Pat confront her about the previous night's events. That much she could be thankful for; Pat's Thursday morning class started two hours after hers. She was able to leave before Pat had even woken up.
Sara now sat in class, tired, hungry, and pissed, trying fruitlessly to type out an article on a laptop with nine broken keys.
She grit her teeth and switched to a different assignment. Today would not be another shitty day. She promised herself that much. She would get through the day without a hitch, get home, and stuff herself with about 20 blueberry Pop-
She registered it immediately, faint as it started out. Voices. Blame was on her for assuming the day would be easy. Sara closed her eyes and took in all the room's oxygen in one long inhale to avoid punching something.
Pat. She needed Pat. Things that were not real stayed not real when Pat was around.
NO, Sara said instantly. She refused to depend on Pat for something this freaking stupid.
The voices increased in volume, still an indiscernible pandemonium.
I don't need her, and she's in class anyway.
She set her jaw and focused only on the screen before her.
She's in her seminar, in her seminar, in her seminar course, in he-
Something clicked. Something cold plopped into the pit of Sara's stomach.
She flew out of class without even bothering to pick up her things and baffling Professor Elton for the second time in as many days.
Sara ran the two miles from the college to her apartment, all the while hoping, praying that she was wrong.
I have to be wrong.
Please don't let it be true...!
It CAN'T be true!
The maddening chorus followed Sara and the other two closely, but she shut them out as a new set of thoughts flowed through her mind like a freezing river broken free of its dam. She ran faster. She had to know she was wrong, and she had to know right then!
She burst through the apartment door. Past the sofa. Into the kitchen.
Pat's backpack lying in its usual spot beside the doorway confirmed Sara's fears.
Pat was in her third year of college. Only freshmen took seminar courses.
As though on cue, a single, heavy footfall echoed through the apartment, too clear, too distinct. The voices fell instantly silent.
Quickly, she grabbed a knife from the holder with hands that were trembling far too hard, her body drained to make room for undiluted horror.
Sara thought again of how she couldn't recall how she'd met Pat.
She thought of not knowing Pat's age or birthday.
The icy realization hit her that she didn't even know what "Pat" was short for.
With a strangled cry she ran out of the kitchen. She had to get out-
The blade slid between her ribs before she could register what had happened.
A step back.
Another step back.
Sara felt the floor darting out from under her feet. She raised her head to look down at her chest, and saw the handle of the large kitchen knife she had failed to notice had been absent from the holder.
There was a lightning rod sticking out of Sara's chest, and it was conducting into her a shock of pain that burned and froze and stung all at once. Her vision blurred at the edges. There seemed to be balls of cotton in her ears. She tasted salt on her lips.
Standing over her was the hazy outline of something she had once recognized as her friend.
"There's really nothing wrong with all this, if ya think about it."
The voice was too clear, too sharp compared to her muffled hearing. It cut into her.
"This is just the story of a girl who, more than anything, wanted a friend."
"You were miserable..."
Sara remembered a miserable first two weeks of college, mocked and shunned and left unassisted by professors. Tears. Frustration. Desperation. Thinking of the occult studies seminar she was taking.
"You were alone..."
Instructions. Candles. Blood offerings. And screeching. So much screeching.
"You were willing to do ANYTHING...for someone to care."
Waking up to find Pat in the kitchen, making breakfast. The smile of two who had known each other forever.
Sara coughed, and she felt blood dripping down her chin.
"But y'know, Sara, everything has its price...and you. Didn't. Read. The fine print."
Her tone was sickly sweet, melodious. Behind her calm tone it sounded as though dozens of other voices screamed when she spoke. The sound was honey turned to acid in Sara's ears. She poured all her will into moving. Not enough.
She dimly made out the silhouette hold up a large rectangle. A book.
"Y'see, Sara, when you open these kinds of doors for something to pass through...well. You leave it open, and who knows what else might come crawling out..."
There were shapes moving in the edge of Sara's failing vision, distant sounds that no creature of this earth could've made, voices that came from no natural throat. Her pain had given way to a numbing, paralyzing terror. Her medication hadn't been failing after all.
It was almost a relief when her vision began to go black.
The sickly sweet voice spoke again, however.
"Oh, you can't die, sweetie! It can be very scary where I'm from."
She heard the smile, loud, so very loud.
"I could really use a friend..."
Written by JustAnotherScarecrow