After a week of nearly sleepless nights I’m willing to try anything.
She says it’s a relapse of my post traumatic stress disorder. She diagnosed me with PTSD eight years ago, after the event I’m going to write about. My shrink tried every trick in the book to get me to tell her what had happened, and I repeatedly refused. She said it was critical to my recovery, that she couldn’t help me if I didn’t open up. Too bad, I’d rather go on with the stress and insomnia than not go on at all.
She continued to work with me even through my lack of cooperation. Dozens of hypnotherapy sessions, prescribed acupuncture, a shopping list of prescription drugs—and after about nine months, I was more or less cured. Of course I still had to take a couple pills each day for the rest of my life, but I wasn’t complaining.
So as I said earlier, I relapsed recently; I’m not really sure what brought it on. I just woke up one night in a cold sweat and haven’t been able to sleep since. When I do drift off I immediately awake to that image I thought I had rid myself of years ago. But sadly, she's back.
Just thinking about it sends a cold chill down my spine. I can’t believe I’m actually doing this after all these years of keeping it pent up inside me, but I have to try something. Plus I think my doc really knows what she’s talking about; I mean, she cured me once, why not twice? So here's the story of what gave me this dreaded disorder and likely robbed me of any chance at a normal life.
Back before I moved to the city, I lived out in the country in a small house I had bought with the money my grandfather left me. It was a one story ranch style; the previous owner had built it himself about twenty years prior. I loved this little house. It was exactly what I wanted: easily maintained, well made, and cozy. I also appreciated the space it gave me from the rest of the world. It wasn’t too terribly secluded, but the next closest house was more than a mile up the road.
Behind the house was endless woods—tall powerful oaks provided a peaceful barrier between me and the outside world. I loved to walk among them, sometimes for hours at a time. I would walk miles deep into them, always carrying a small can of bright green spray paint so I could find my way back. One morning I decided to start out early and see how far I could get before feeling the need to turn back.
I packed a couple sandwiches and a few bottles of water in my backpack and headed out. I followed my previously marked path until the trees no longer had my little green dots on them. I decided to go straight up the hill, instead of around: I had no idea how long it would take me to get around it, and I wanted to get as deep into the woods as possible.
As I reached the top of the tall hill I turned to look back the way I had come. Nothing was in sight. I could see over the trees that I had just traveled through, but still could see nothing of civilization. I guessed I had walked at least three miles.
As I walked across the flat top of the hill, I was frozen in my tracks as I discovered what was on the other side. A large meadow, about the size of a football field, was stretched out before me, and there was a small shack in the middle of it. I couldn’t imagine that anyone had ever lived out here, but I thought maybe it was a hunting camp at one time.
I walked across the field toward the shack and realized it appeared to be well past its prime. The rough-hewn lumber that made up the exterior walls was grey like ash, and much of it had rotted away. As I walked to the corner I noticed some empty paint cans that had been stacked at the base. I could see that they’d contained white paint, and I knew that meant someone must have used them somewhat recently or else they would've been nothing but rust. The shack was about twenty feet by twenty feet square, with one window in each wall.
I inched up to the nearest window and peered in. There was no one inside, not even any furniture. Now I could see what the white paint was for: the walls, ceiling, and floor were all bright white, but not white alone. On all the walls were strange symbols drawn in dark red. They weren’t anything that I recognized, but they gave me a very uneasy feeling.
On the white floor, in the center of the room, there was a huge star painted, also in red, and from the ceiling hung dozens of tiny stick figures. I couldn’t really make them out but they did appear to be in the shape of stick people, made out of twigs and straw. My heart was racing—whatever this was I didn’t like it, and it was in my own back yard! I was furious, but also curious.
I decided to walk back into the woods a ways and eat a sandwich while I waited to see if the owner might return. I had no intentions of confronting them, but I had to know if someone was staying here or using this place for some sort of shrine. I ate a sandwich, and then I ate the other one. Hours passed, and no one had come. The sun was beginning to set. I thought about leaving, but I had packed my flashlight in case I didn’t make it back before dark. My curiosity won out; I had to know. I told myself I’d wait another hour, and if nothing showed, I would leave. The sun was about to disappear behind the horizon when I heard leaves crunching across the field.
There was just enough daylight left to see a figure appear from the tree-line. It appeared to be a woman. She was wearing a bright red dress, and she was dragging a large sack behind her. I could see two red dots in her face which I thought must have been the last of the sun reflecting in her eyes. She continued across the field pulling her sack behind her.
As she got to the front of the shack, she heaved the sack up onto the small porch, and then retrieved a key from her pocket. She opened the door and pulled her bag inside.
I remember thinking, “Now what?”
I realized I had no plan other than to find out if someone was using this place; now that I had my answer, I was lost. I decided I would watch a few more minutes to see if the woman left, then I would head back home and think about what to do next.
The minutes passed, and she hadn’t emerged, so I slung my backpack over my shoulder and began my trip back. I took no more than half a dozen steps when I heard a muffled cry. I froze and listened—sure enough someone was crying. I could barely hear it, like someone holding their hand over their mouth as they sob by their loved one’s casket.
Now I am not a brave person, but a curious one, there is none more so. I decided I had to try to get a peek. Maybe the woman had fallen inside and needed help. I did a crouching jog across the field, trying to stay as low as I could until I reached the side of the shack.
I sat and listened—it was much clearer now—a woman was definitely sobbing with something being held over her mouth. I wasn’t sure, but it didn’t sound like sobs of pain or loss: it sounded like fear. I eased around the corner making sure to swing wide enough to miss the paint cans I remembered being stacked there, and inched over to the front window beside the porch. I sat there crouched down for several minutes trying to work up the courage to peek in. I could hear another noise from inside, a dragging noise; then it stopped, but the sobbing grew louder. I had to look. As I eased my eye up to the corner of the window, I could see the back of the woman in red.
She was no more than three feet from the window but luckily facing away. Her hair was pulled back in a tight bun that looked like something a bird might lay eggs in. I noticed a rope was hanging from a pulley attached to the ceiling that I hadn’t noticed earlier. It appeared she was doing something with whatever was hanging from the rope. I continued to hear the crying, but it was getting much weaker now.
As I watched the old woman bend over to retrieve something from the floor, my heart seized in my chest. Hanging from the rope by her ankles was a young woman; she looked to be about my age at the time, late twenties. She was thin, very pale, with bright red hair, and had a look of fear in her eyes like I had never seen before.
As her eyes locked with mine, she froze: no more crying, just a cold, penetrating look of sadness. She was screaming at me with her eyes to help her, and I didn’t know what to do. I watched as the woman in red raised back up with a small can in her hand. She began dousing the girl with liquid from the can, and the girl started thrashing wildly. As the old lady did this, she let out a horrifying cackle that would have made the devil cringe. I panicked and turned to run, and as I did so, I heard a loud rush of sound from inside and saw a bright flash of orange on the ground around me. Shame and despair pushed me to my knees, but fear and a strong will to live quickly lit its own fire.
After no more than three quick steps I stumbled into the paint cans and came crashing down with an awful thud. I felt like my heart was going to explode as I noticed the screeching laughter from the interior had stopped, and I heard the door slam open. I didn’t bother to look back, I simply jumped to my feet and started running for the woods.
As I neared the edge of the woods, lungs burning, I noticed two red orbs glowing between the oaks. I froze in my tracks as she glided out of the cover. She looked ancient. Her skin looked like tree bark: grey, cracked, and flaky. I just stood and trembled as her glowing red eyes closed the gap between us. The last few feet she finished in a sudden rush, freezing no more than an inch from my face. Her fiery eyes glaring into mine, I felt my bladder let loose as urine soaked down my pant leg. I was then locked in a trance that excluded the world around us. It was just the two of us, standing in blackness.
I could feel and smell her hot, rancid breath flowing over my face. I looked down and noticed the eyes weren’t the worst: her mouth was twisted into an impossible, maniacal grin. It was cartoonish in nature and appeared to stretch all the way back to her ears. Even worse, her teeth weren’t human teeth. If they ever had been before, they were now filed down to decaying, razor-like fangs. I felt sure that my heart would stop any second.
As I stood lifeless in front of this evil being, she raised her hand up to my chin. She extended one crooked finger and began to press it into my flesh, lifting me up onto my toes. As she continued pressing, her nail dug in, and I felt the blood running down my neck, then my feet left the dark ground. I was now helpless as she dangled me at arm's length like a lifeless puppet. She began to speak. Her voice—so shrill and raspy—my ears could hardly stand it. She spoke in what I can only assume was an ancient and esoteric language. I still haven't been able to identify it, even after years of research. Even though I couldn't understand a word, she somehow had the ability to "beam" the words into my brain in my native language.
I will never forget the words. It's as if they were etched by flame into my memory:
“You have seen what should not have been seen; not because it is wrong, but because you cannot possibly comprehend. I should end your meaningless life right here, but, excess being frowned upon, I will allow you to live, on one condition: you must never speak of what you have seen. You will take this to your grave, and if you don’t, I will come for you, and your suffering will know no bounds. Your pain will never cease. Your worst nightmares will seem as dreams. You will be my pet for all eternity."
Obviously, I agreed to the terms.
Just before she dropped me, she spoke the last words I would hear from her. The words that still sicken me to this day:
"Your never-ending fear will feed me in my times of need.”
After that, she slowly glided back into the woods the same way she had come. She never broke eye contact.
She never stopped smiling.
Once she disappeared and the trance was broken, I pressed my hand under my chin to slow the bleeding and then turned to see the shack going up in flames. I knew there was nothing I could do to help the poor girl inside now—she was gone—used up for whatever ritual this evil creature had just performed. The wound under my chin seemed to have almost stopped bleeding, so I returned to the woods to find my backpack, retrieved my flashlight, and headed home.
I spent weeks in a near state of shock. I lost my job, and most of my friends stopped calling. I felt like I was drowning. I had just witnessed the most disturbing thing humanly possible, and I could tell no one. I couldn’t sleep; my appetite was nonexistent. Every time I closed my eyes I either saw the girl hanging from the rope engulfed in a blaze, or I saw the glowing red eyes and the sickening grin of the woman in red.
I sold the house and moved into a small apartment in the city nearby.
The move didn’t help anything. Finally I knew something had to be done, so I called up the doc and made an appointment. It was difficult at first. She wanted so badly to know what had caused my trauma, but I knew that the old woman had meant what she said. She was an ancient evil; I could feel the dark energy flowing from her single finger as it held me in the air. I could sense a darkness that had lasted through the ages that no one could ever snuff out. I would never speak of what I saw that night, and that’s why I was even skeptical about typing this out. The doc said I had to get it off my chest, and if I wasn’t willing to talk about it, this was the only way.
There was just a knock at the door. Almost gave me a heart attack. No one there though. Probably just some kids playing a prank, but I’m not about to open the door. People are always getting robbed in this city, and I’m not in a hurry to become one of them. Plus I’m more than a little unnerved by writing this.
I guess I shouldn't get too concerned. It wouldn't be the first time I've heard something that wasn't there. "Auditory hallucinations" the doc calls them. Maybe the stress from this exercise is more than I was ready for.
Anyway, so the doc thinks that after a few weeks of hypnotherapy, and after writing out this story that I should be good as new. I’m not sure if I believe I’ll ever be as good as
there was just another knock
it wasn’t the front door this time
it was my bedroom door
Written by Jay Ten