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It all started in my house. My own home. The place you're supposed to feel safe.
I'm not an adult. I'm not strong. I'm not insane, I swear to God. I'm just a freshman.
I hate to tell this story, not because it “could happen to you” (which it can) nor because it “happened to me”. I hate telling this story because of the sheer awfulness of using the once innocent key elements of this encounter that everyone loves and turning it into something horrifying and hair-raising.
I hate the sense of dread I get whenever I hear the words.
It may seem ridiculous, and maybe I am and the whole thing was just something I'm completely overreacting to, but I can't help it. I've seen it. I've experienced it. I've cried over it. Nothing can be done to change that.
As previously mentioned, my story begins in my house. I had been doing homework on my couch in the living room next to the window. It was dark out and my parents and two younger brothers had gone to sleep. I decided that before I hit the pillow, I might as well go find something to eat.
Plopping my textbook down on the coffee table next to the couch, I stood up and made my way through the dining room to the kitchen. I noticed that the blinds were open and promptly shut them. I wasn't necessarily afraid of the dark, but I always envisioned the worst when I looked outside at night, especially when I was on the ground floor.
After shutting the blinds and feeling a lot safer, I searched the kitchen for a snack. Finding nothing worth munching on, I proceeded to leave, but it was then that I noticed a single cookie resting neatly on top of a napkin on the kitchen counter. I wondered if it had been there the whole time, because I certainly couldn't remember seeing it when I originally scanned the counters.
Shrugging it off as my apparent blindness, I picked it up and headed towards the stairs, turning off the lights as I went and quickening my pace. Funny how when you turn off the lights, all the scariest things you've ever read or seen pop into your mind and suddenly make a lot of sense.
As I reached my bed, I drew the covers over my head and munched on my chocolate chip cookie. It tasted just like my mom's. Did she bake some earlier? I certainly didn't remember her doing so...
I finished the cookie and tossed the napkin in my trash can. I pulled the covers over my head once more and drifted off into a deep sleep.
I thought I wouldn't have any issues sleeping, because I haven't had any since I tried this breathing technique before I sleep to ward off bad dreams which usually works, but I didn't do it that night. Big. Ass. Mistake.
That night, I dreamt of a field surrounded by trees. I ran through the tall grasses which I had done a thousand times before. I had reoccurring dreams of this place a lot, and usually, when I was here, I could run, jump, and then start flying. As I took my jump to fly, I came rocketing back down to Earth, landing clumsily on my chest. I screamed in real pain as I felt my rib cage crack under my weight. I coughed up a ridiculous amount of blood, and I looked back towards the forest. Under the shadow of the trees, I saw five children; four boys and a girl. Behind them, there were many more kids, but the five others stood ahead of them and all had the same distinguishing feature; all five of them had sickly, unhinged jaws, dropping to the base of their necks. The inhuman sight made me cough up more blood, but I felt like I was vomiting. When I looked back up from my pool of blood, it began raining drops of blood, and I was suddenly encircled by children.
At this point, it suddenly dawned on me “This is a dream.”
My eyes opened, and I looked around my bedroom to see the glow in the dark stars on my walls which, at first glance, I mistook for eyes. I sighed a breath of relief, but I could feel myself shaking violently. I felt something scratchy under my back and realized that it was my carpet. I had rolled off the side of my bed onto the floor. Laughing sheepishly at myself, I crawled back under my covers and completed my breathing routine. I was done with night terrors. I'd had my fair share of them when I was little and didn't want anything else to do with them. I closed my eyes and fell back asleep.
The next morning, I got a bag ready, filled with necessary supplies for the day ahead. Sunscreen, cell phone, lunch, iTouch with both earphones and a speaker, my wallet, and sunglasses. I was going to one today with a couple of close friends, one of whom I secretly liked. I had been meaning to tell him, but every time I tried, I just ended up starting a random casual conversation and then I'd say goodbye and leave.
Anyways, I had gotten myself some breakfast and rushed out the door when I heard my friends honk their car horn from outside. I climbed into the black car, exchanging hellos with my friends Tom, Mary, Aly, Beck, David, and Sam. Sam was driving, as he was the only one out of all of us who had his license (Aly, Beck, David and I were too young and Mary and Tom were just lazy). I looked at Sam's gorgeously styled hair. It looked so nice in the sunlight, just like when we'd first met...
Mary caught my gaze and raised her eyebrows and smiled.
“Stop iiiit!” I whined at her.
Aly laughed and David gave me a look.
I hated them so much, haha.
When we arrived at the amusement park, we all piled out of the car. We headed first to the roller coasters, speed and number of loops the deciding factors for which ones we were to go on. Beck suggested that we go on the “Tunnel of Love” ride, with a quick glance from me to Sam, but after Aly, Mary and I all threatened to punch him he renounced the idea.
Instead, we all decided to have lunch then go in the newly remodeled fun house. I unpacked my lunch and sat under a tree while I waited for the others to get back from the fast food place nearby. Sam got back first and he sat next to me.
It was awkwardly quiet for a while, until we struck up a conversation about college. I talked to him about my passion for writing stories and he told me that he really loved math. I told him I used to like math until I took calculus. We both laughed.
As I searched around in my lunch bag for any other food items before I tossed it in the trash, my hand came upon a flat, crumbly, circular something. I pulled it out and was surprised to see another chocolate chip cookie. I had checked the pantry for one before I left, since I had found one the previous night, but had found no such cookie.
Puzzled, I tossed the lunch bag in the trash but kept the cookie, and returned to my conversation with Sam, munching on the cookie, mind elsewhere. Soon everyone was back and we all finished our food and headed to the fun house. The line there was relatively long, but we were determined to wait it out. Half-way through the wait, I started developing a pounding headache. By the time we reached the front of the line, I nearly keeled over in pain.
“Are you okay? Do you still want to go in?” Aly asked as she and the others looked at me, concern written on their faces.
“I'll be fine. Let's just go through and then I'll go sit down somewhere,” I answered.
Looking back at this moment, I wish I hadn't gone inside. Maybe then, I wouldn't be constantly on my guard... with them always watching...
Everyone piled into the fun house, Tom in the front and Mary following, David, Beck and Aly close behind and Sam and I bringing up the rear. There were lots of fun obstacles, such as long corridors of rolling pin-like floors and spinning tunnels. Then came the hall of mirrors. We had to meander our way through a labyrinth of mirrors. It was quite the challenge, and after a few dead ends and twists and turns, we began to get separated. First Beck and David, then Tom, then Mary, then Aly, then finally Sam. I was completely alone. Or, at least I thought I was.
I wandered aimlessly through the mirrors, each step bringing me deeper and deeper into the maze. It was getting hard to find my way around the mirrors, and I hadn't found the exit and hadn't ran into any of my friends. Surely in a place this small I would've ran into someone. As I passed a mirror, I saw out of the corner of my eye a small girl. I turned to face her, but it was just a mirror with myself staring back at me. I frowned, and with a slightly hurried pace, continued on my way through the maze. However, that's not all that happened, oh no.
As I progressed deeper into the maze of mirrors, my reflection began to change. I began to look more tired and older the farther I went. My frown kept extending and wouldn't stop. Suddenly, I felt my feet begin to hurt horribly. How long had I been walking? Where is the exit? Where are my friends?
Nearing another corner, I took a left turn and walked straight into a mirror. I fell down onto the cold, hard, metallic floor and stared at my reflection; however, it wasn't my reflection. It was the girl I had seen in my dream the previous night. Her gaping jaw somehow pulled itself into what I thought was a grin. Written above her head in what I thought was blood was a message that read, “Hello. I hope you liked my cookies. I made them with lots and lots of.....blood :) -The Jaw-less Child”
My blood ran cold and I felt like vomiting as I looked down at her feet and I saw a “chocolate chip” cookie, place carefully on a napkin. What I came to know as the Jaw-less Children all appeared in the mirrors all beckoned me to eat the third gory cookie.
I could see the little girl Jaw-less Child patiently waiting for me. I refused once, and only once, because the moment I said “No” she frowned so horribly and awfully and glared at me with these blank, white eyes and immediately filled with black. Blood tears ran down her cheeks and she screamed at me a blood curling scream. Crying out of fear, I looked away and picked up the cookie and ate it, the Jaw-less Children screeching at me, trying to reach through the mirrors to grab me. As soon as I finished, they all disappeared, save the little girl.
“Sweet dreams, Jael,” she told me and then grinned at me and left.
Was that it? I wondered, the panic slowly receding.
No. It wasn't.
Suddenly, flashes of terrible things filled my mind. My body convulsed violently as pain flooded my limbs and chest and I began coughing up blood like before. I tried to call out for help, but I choked on my own blood. I writhed on the floor as I watched quick flashes of my family and friends dying right before my eyes.
I watched my brothers' skulls melt, my mother burst open and blood gushing out, and my father being sucked dry of all his blood. Worst of all was my sister. She is serving in the Army, and in the fit I was having, I watched her as she pulled another soldier to safety, treat his wounds, and then go out to help another soldier in the middle of a battle. Then, she was shot eight times and killed. Tears streamed down my cheeks and all I could do was scream. Just as I was about to pass out from the pain, the Jaw-less Children appeared in my visions once more.
“OtHeRs WiLl SuFfEr,” they told me, their words chilling me to the bone.
As the visions disappeared from view and I lost consciousness, I remember thinking to myself that death would be welcomed. I had not only witnessed death, but many other unspeakable things which still haunt me to this day. Worse yet, I haven't gone a single night without seeing at least one of the Jaw-less Children in my dreams. I sometimes still find those awful cookies in little nooks and crannies in my house, but I pretend not to notice them, and my family doesn't seem to be able to see them. I hope that they can't see them.
I awoke to the sound of my name being called by my friends. I opened my eyes. They were bleary, as though I was looking through someone's glasses. I sat up, but the room around me started spinning. I realized I was still in the mirror maze and had passed out on the floor.
My friends were all bending over me, concerned. Blood was all over my shirt, and on the floor by the mirror that the little girl had appeared in, but the message she had written was gone. I suddenly remembered my vision and began to cry. I grasped the person nearest me and buried my face in his shoulder, just sobbing. It was Sam.
They let me cry for a while and then Tom allowed me to wear his jacket to hide the blood, even though he was a lot larger than me. When we got back to the car, Sam's dad was there behind the wheel. We all piled into the car and I sniffled as Sam helped guide me inside.
Everyone bombarded me with questions. I didn't want to say anything about the Jaw-less Children, because they had said “Others will suffer”. If that meant what I thought it meant, then I didn't want to risk putting them in danger. All I said was that I'd had a horrible seizure accompanied by terrifying flashes of death and destruction. I started shaking and crying again and Sam put his arms around me.
“Are you sure we shouldn't go to a hospital?” David asked.
“She should be fine now. After all seizures...” Tom started going off onto a long medical discussion which I didn't listen to.
I shut my eyes tight, trying to forget everything that happened, but when I opened them again, I saw the Jaw-less Child staring at me through the car window. I nearly screamed, but kept somewhat calm and insisted that we leave right then and there. So, Sam's dad started up the car and we drove away.
Sam talked to me soothingly and stroked my short hair as I clenched his shirt in my fist. I was shaking violently the whole ride home and still shake when I think about sleeping or that first encounter. I've thought many times about killing myself, and have since spoken about the Jaw-less Children to my friends. Sam believes me, I think, but I'm pretty sure that the others think I'm crazy, just like my parents do.
It's just because they can't see the cookies. They haven't seen what I've seen. They haven't woken up and seen the Jaw-less Child staring at them through the window. No one can understand. Sometimes I want the Jaw-less Children to traumatize someone else so that they can understand. So that I feel like I'm not alone. But then I realize how sick that is, and I feel like killing myself.
Thus the cycle continues, day after day. The only thing keeping me alive is Sam's faith, and I'm afraid that one day, I won't even have that anymore, and then the Jaw-less Children will take me with them down to Hell and torment my mind forever.
“OtHeRs WiLl SuFfEr.”
I'm sorry if they mean you.