Am I mad? I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe. I should write that down. In crayon? Felt tip marker? A quill pen? No, not a quill pen. I’ll use the pen in my hand. There’s a clean spot on the wall over there.
I scribble my thoughts on the white painted wall, next to yesterday’s thoughts. I step back and smile. I like the pretty squiggles, all blue and curly. I wonder what they mean? I think what I write is language. I know it comes from inside my head. From the voices. It pours out, sometimes English, sometimes other languages, sometimes a strange script I’ve never seen before. No one has seen that writing in a long, long time. I’m not sure how I know that, but I do. My scribbles are all over the house now. On the walls, the floor, the furniture. I even managed to get some on the ceiling in the upstairs bathroom. I don’t remember that, but it is there. Everything has been redecorated in ink: black, blue, green… red.
No, don’t think about the red. Don’t ever think about the red. You might go mad if you think about the red. Must remember. Keep the door closed. Always keep the door closed.
I shut my eyes. When I open them I’m in the hall outside the door. The smell is worse today, but I’m getting used to it. It doesn’t make me gag anymore. My hand trembles. I know what’s going to happen. I start writing on the door. Again.
But it’s not red. The red is on the inside. Always on the inside. I scribble, though, in blue. Blue, blue. Blue like the sky. I haven’t seen the sky in a long time. Is it still blue? Or did it die, like… No, stay away from bad thoughts. Scribble, must scribble. What is it today? Runes I think. Warnings. That’s good. Must never open the door.
I lower the pen. I can hear the scraping now. And the angry whispers. The voices want out. I don’t think they like what I wrote. Too bad. They’re grounded. Locked in the room. While I write. Write everywhere. Wards. Runes. Spells. To keep them here. To keep them with me. Forever. They tried to get in my head. But it didn’t work. I got into theirs instead. I saw. Yes, I did. Now they’re mine.
To replace the red. Or make them pay. I don’t know. Maybe both. I want them back… No, don’t go there. Don’t go into the red. Shells, they’re just shells of what they were. The voices are inside them now.
I stare at the door. At the tattered teddy bear decal on the wood. I remember who used to live there, for a moment. Their little faces, their smiles, their laughs. Before the voices… before the red.
No, no, don’t go into the red. The voices will get out. Mustn’t let them out. Can’t give in. Always keep the door closed. Keep writing, keep warding. Remember, the voices want out. They must, never, ever get out.
~ A. F. Stewart
© Copyright 2018 A. F. Stewart. All Rights Reserved.
“The numbers tick, you know. When it is time.” Russell giggled and stared at the strangely carved box on the table. “Rows of numbers etched on nameless faces. All tucked away in the box.” He ran a finger along an edge of the container. “They are always there, standing on the edges of my dreams. Until…” Russell shivered and withdrew his hand, sliding it into his lap. “Then comes the ticking. Like a pocket watch or a clock. Counting down the minutes, the seconds. Waiting for me.” He giggled again, a manic sound, giving his hysteria voice.
“Don’t say things like that!” Across the room, Robert, Russell’s brother, could no longer contain his emotion. He fumbled for a cigarette in his pocket, adding, “Such talk is insanity. You must stop this odd obsession of yours. Rid yourself of the box and be done with it.”
Finding a cigarette, Russell lit it, the match lending a soft glow to his face before he blew out the flame. Smoke encircled his head as he puffed and continued. “The assertion is preposterous, there aren’t even numbers on the damned box.”
Russell sighed. “The numbers aren’t on the box. Haven’t you been listening? They’re in my mind.” He tapped his forehead.” And I can’t simply stop. Or rid myself of the box. I’ve come too far already. It’s too much a part of me.” Russell frowned and then shivered again. “Fear drives me now.”
He watched his brother’s reaction. Robert took a drag of his cigarette, pity flitting across his face. Russell placed his hand back on the tabletop, drumming his fingers lightly. “Perhaps that is true madness. Too much fear.”
Robert grunted. “Fear can be conquered. You always did lack a spine.” He sighed. “I’m only trying to help before Father makes good on his promise and commits you to an asylum.”
Russell suddenly scowled, his fingers curling into a fist. “Father? You put him up to that. You know you did.” Russell laughed at the surprised look on his brother’s face. “Yes, I knew it was you. You are not as clever as you think.” Then he smiled. “But I forgive you. Come and sit. Look at the box. Let me show you. If you still feel I need to rid myself of it after I explain, then I’ll agree.”
Robert shrugged, but joined Russell at the table, settling into a chair. “What do you want to show me?”
“That there’s a demon in the box.” Russell laughed again at Robert incredulous expression. “I know it sounds mad, but it’s true.”
“You need help, brother. Let me help you.” The smoke of Robert’s cigarette wafted between them. Russell smiled. He moved his hand to the lid of the box and carefully stroked part of the carving, a small horned figure. Then he withdrew his fingers.
“Yes, you can help me. I didn’t want it to come to this, and I could just let it end, let the demon take me. But I’m afraid to die. Afraid of what’s inside the box.” Russell took a breath, his eyes focusing on his brother’s glowing cigarette. “I’m so sorry, but it needs a name.” He paused, for a heartbeat.
Inside Russell’s head the ticking stopped and the lid of the box opened wide on its own. Russell kept his eyes on Robert’s glowing cigarette as it fell, scorching a burn mark into the table. He ignored his brother’s screams until the lid of the box clicked shut.
Then he stared at the empty chair across from him. He reached over and stubbed the cigarette out on the wood tabletop. “It was you or me, brother. I chose me.” Russell rose and picked up the box.
“I’ll see you in my dreams.”
~ A. F. Stewart
© Copyright 2018 A. F. Stewart. All Rights Reserved.
I sit here listening to the rain tinkling off the darkened glass of my window. Like so many nights before, I peer into an eternity of nothingness that shows only my blurred face in its shadows. Shadows that dance around in the ambient light as the wind whips and sways the tree limbs, keeping pace with the rain as it shifts from a patter to a pounding, to a more gentle touch on the pane.
I begin to turn away and see just the merest suggestion of movement from the corner of my eye, I turn back… But nothing has changed, nothing is different, no one is there. My blurred view is as it was before. Rivulets of rain running down the glass; impressions of shapes I know so well that exist beyond the safety of my window; my face looking back at me lost in the dreary visage of the existence in which I suffer. A face distorted by the passage of the rain running over the glass… a face twisted in pain.
I wander to the door, drawn by a force both within me and beyond these protective walls. What an exquisitely beautiful night to breath in the smell of the wet grass, the saturated earth, the dampness all around me. What a sumptuous night to twirl circles in my tattered gown, soaked and clinging to my body like a lover that has been released but wishes not to go. What a glorious night to stroll under the rows of the ever reaching Maple trees, listening as their limbs sing a song of agony as they rub against one another. I let the rain wash me clean under the hidden moon before wandering farther into the shadows of this night.
The beast, he wakes; I can feel him watching, waiting, growing from the pangs within me. Will he come to me, this creature of anguish? The rain is slowing, a mere drizzle now, barely even falling – floating on the breeze like his warm breath upon my bare neck. Will he stalk me in the lingering mist? I live knowing he terrifies me, even as I long for his touch; the touch of a soul as dark and tortured as my own.
The moon tries to protect me with its light, but I hide in the shadows as does he – this monster of beauty and destruction; this primal creature that will destroy me; this half-man half-beast that will ultimately consume me. How long can I resist his not-so gentle pull into the dark of the woods that now surround me? Do I even wish to try? Or would I willingly rush to him if only he would beckon?
I stand on the brink of the deeper shadows trembling with fear; fearing the need to take that final step. I feel his want calling out to me – yes, he wants me to enter his world, but he does not guarantee that my journey there will be a sane one. I move out of the shadows and fall to my knees weeping, begging him to emerge from the dim recesses and enter my world of glowing moonlight. But he fears the light, no – not fear – hate. He hates the light. This light that shines upon my upturned face and tangled hair has been his undoing. He was not always this beast, he was once a creature so different, so full of life, that he has no choice but to loathe the fact that I have not become what he is. His presence near demands that I enter his domain; his mind delves into mine impaling me with his desire. But I know his lust is insatiable, and once he has touched my darkness, I will never return to the light again.
Frightened, I cannot move; he is enraged – so angered that he nearly allows himself to reach out and grab hold of me, dragging me to him. I will not fight, I will let him take what he will, yet I cannot offer my submission even under his heated gaze. But no, he will not take me, I must come to him; my damaged companion, my kindred tortured soul who seeks nothing more than I – a release from this distant embrace of hellish pain we are destined to exist within.
With a snarl of anger and disgust, he leaves me yet again to weep at the edge of the darkness, screaming silently to be where he’d have me go.
I hear him howl into the night; he screams his rage while crying out his longing for that which may someday leave what meager light the moon sheds to walk in the dark at his side – owned by him for all eternity.
~ Nina D’Arcangela
© Copyright 2012 Nina D’Arcangela. All Rights Reserved.
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