written by KB HURST
The evil thing sauntered down the dark hallway, stopping just before my screams became inaudible. It would be my last second alive, then I saw its cold black fungus for eyes. It nearly ripped me apart, fingers laced inside my guts, spilling my blood in a pool of decadence.
Then I woke up.
It was a dream. It was only a dream, yet it felt so real. I had been plagued by these encounters with this creature since I called out to something other than earthly that morning. It was as intertwined inside my life as I was with the memories of what brought it here.
It became my otherworldly twin, baked inside me, waiting to pop.
It was a sunny afternoon in August when my nephew’s derelict father, Billy, came to pick him up for a visit. I hated seeing him. He always smelled like alcohol and had a creepy way of viewing me. He felt as if he owned me, all because I had taken my sister’s place. Her death made me the sole caretaker for my nephew, whose father had gone to prison for killing my sister, Doreen, in a car crash. The court said it was manslaughter, not aggravated murder. Yet, I knew what really happened.
That morning they fought severely. He had punched her in the face, and she called me from the bathroom at a rest stop. Luckily, I was babysitting my nephew that day, so he wasn’t in the vehicle. When he realized she was telling me of her plan to escape, I knew he would kill her as soon as he wasn’t looking. He had always been a vile, violent man. I never understood why she was still with him.
It looked like it was just another unfortunate accident. This husband meant no harm, he’d go to jail for six lousy years, but with good behavior, he was out in three. He also got part-time custody of my nephew when he got out. Every other Saturday, he came in his beat-up old pickup truck. He grinned at me, knowing I could do nothing about it. I had to suck it up. I had to obey the court. Otherwise, I’d be in contempt. I had a daughter of my own, sixteen, and I didn’t want any reason for something to happen to her because of my behavior towards this man.
At first, he was good with Desmond, my nephew. He’d take him shopping, to lunch, and sometimes let him steer the truck. I objected but tried not to show Desmond my dismay when he picked him up and later dropped him off. I was always so relieved when he came back alive and unharmed. I had nightmares when Desmond was with his shit excuse for a father. When he dropped him off, I was always relieved.
Then it happened. Desmond was getting dropped off by Billy when my daughter, Tara, came out to get the keys to my car.
“Tara looks mighty grown up these days, Emily. Better watch her.”
It was an off-the-cuff comment and probably would have meant nothing had it come from any other I knew, but because it came from Desmond’s father. I blacked out, not realizing what I had done until it was too late to care.
“Why don’t you just get in your pickup truck and drive off a cliff. I wish I had never met you, I wish my sister had never met you, I wish you were fucking dead! You are a disgusting excuse for a man, and the world would be far better if its very earth claimed you.”
I took a deep breath as the wind picked up and a storm cloud appeared. It was like something out of a movie.
I meant it. I said every word with force and didn’t care how it happened. I didn’t care if Satan himself came to take my soul as long as it took Billy. Fuck Billy.
I forgot my nephew and daughter were standing just six feet away on the porch and had stopped to hear every word.
“Fuck you, Emily. Don’t forget I will get my son again in two weeks. Might want to watch it. I would hate to hate the judge to think you were unfit,” Billy said as he got into his pickup truck and drove off in a speeding fashion.
I thought no more of it that day until I got a phone call later that evening. It was from a friend of mine who was a cop.
“Emily, I don’t know how to tell you this, but you may want to sit down.”
I sat down at my kitchen table, where I was folding towels.
Then I listened to my friend tell me why he was calling.
“I got a call for a traffic accident; it was pretty nasty too. It was a guy driving about seventy miles an hour when he somehow slid under a semi-. I’m not even sure how it happened. It doesn’t make any sense- but he slid under that truck so fast it took his head off and nearly killed the other driver. Luckily, the semi’s driver is in stable condition at St. Marks.”
I said nothing, only thanked him for trying to figure out how to tell little Desmond about his father. But I was giddy. Absolutely unapologetically giddy. I actually began to laugh. I laughed uncontrollably for ten minutes before I got myself together long enough to practice grace and try to appear sincere when I told Desmond about his father’s death.
I maintained my composure as best as possible, but when I told Desmond, he didn’t believe me. Once he realized I wasn’t lying, he began to cry, accusing me of killing his father.
I could only look at him because maybe I had. Perhaps I had killed him with a wish, and I didn’t care.
“You killed Daddy!” He cried in anger.
“Desmond, nobody can wish someone dead. But if I have been bad, I will surely be punished during God’s day of judgment.” That was all I said. I was unfeeling at best, and no feigning emotion could get around Desmond. He knew my heart where his father was concerned. He had seen my face every time he left with his father.
Desmond ran to his room, and I sat down to fold the towels. I maintained a sly grin the entire time.
“Guess who got the last word in you bastard,” I said to myself, hoping his spirit might see how glad I was that he had managed to go to the other side.
The funeral had only a few of us there, mainly Desmond. The funeral was on a Friday afternoon, and I didn’t bother taking Tara out of school. I held Desmond close, but he was still angry with me.
He’d get over it, I thought.
The days following were rough. Desmond wouldn’t eat or sleep, and then he started complaining that his legs were sore. I finally took him to a doctor who said he had an issue with a nerve ending in his spine and would have to have surgery.
It was scary, but I had every faith in the doctors that did the surgery. I was wrong to have any faith. When Desmond woke from his surgery, he was paralyzed from the waist down. The doctors said that sometimes it was a side effect of the surgery and that Desmond would recover and return to the way he was before.
He did eventually get feeling in his legs back, but only after a dozen or so more surgeries to repair what damage those doctors had done.
Desmond grew to resent me, no matter how much I tried to be a good mother to him. He never forgot what I had done, how I had killed his father.
I once found a necklace with a charm that looked like a devil. I asked him where he got it, and he grabbed it from me, not saying anything. I left him alone. I stayed out of his business after that.
When Desmond was eighteen, he moved out, and I didn’t see much of him except when he needed money. I began to resent him coming around to see me. I knew it wasn’t out of love or that he missed me, but I felt I owed him.
The last time I spoke to him, he had come to see me on my birthday. He even brought flowers, and I was elated thinking he had really turned a leaf.
I was glad to see him and gave him a hug. It took him back that I should show him so much affection after all he had done to show me he hated me. He asked if he could get a few things from his old room, and I said that was fine.
When he came back in, he seemed angry or maybe cocky. He had a smirk on his face.
Then the real reason emerged for why he had shown up on my birthday.
“You think I’m here because I care about you. I’m only here to tell you goodbye. I never want to see you again. Do you think you were somehow better than my father? You were worse, you are an evil witch, and I hope you suffer the same fate as my parents. Here take these flowers; maybe they can go on your coffin.”
He laughed and walked out.
I stood in the doorway, and then I got mad, not just sore but so furious I shook all over.
“Your father murdered your mother! He deserved to die. So do you- you ungrateful shit,” I slammed the door with that.
I balled for over an hour until my daughter came home. She was still staying there on the weekends, sometimes from college. When she saw me, she asked me what had happened, and I had to tell her what Desmond had said.
“He didn’t mean it. He just likes attention. Don’t let him bully you, Mom. Ever since his dad died, he’s been different. It’s almost like he became his dad when his father died.” She said, picking up her e-cigarette and taking a puff.
It was strange that she had said it. It was not something I had considered.
Desmond didn’t die from my angry words. Instead, I would hear various stories about him. Then it started.
The first time I saw it, I barely believed it.
I was sleeping on the couch watching a talk show when I felt the room go cold.
I reached for the blanket I had covered my legs with when I realized the room was pitch black. I felt something cold caress my face, and when I touched my face to wipe what I thought was my hair- there was nothing there.
I stood up to turn on the lamp next to the couch, but it wouldn’t come on. I felt a gust of wind blowing like something had run past me. My heart began to panic a little.
I wanted to be able to see, but I was blind in the shadows. I could see something in the dark as my eyes adjusted to the black. Then it appeared as if whatever was there was blacker than the shadows. The shadows had shadows now, and they were coming closer to me.
I felt a tightening around my throat, and I screamed loudly.
I screamed until the phantom’s hands squeezed and squeezed, choking me unconscious. I could scream no longer as I passed out.
When I woke up, I was on the floor face down in vomit. I sat up quickly, looking around the room, trying to understand what had happened. I suddenly recalled that I had been trying to breathe.
Maybe it was a nightmare to get sick in my sleep. I must have had acid reflux, or so I reasoned with myself. I cleaned myself and the wooden floor and then went to work.
I didn’t think much about the shadows. I only figured I had hallucinated them from lack of oxygen.
Something was different, though. I was constantly tired after that event. I often woke in the middle of the night, trying to understand why I was awake. It was as if something wanted me to know its presence was there.
I gravitated towards things in life that kept me from other people. I avoided gatherings, lost most of my friends, and would not allow Tara to visit me. I would instead arrange to meet her for coffee or dinner anywhere but at my house. People suggested I move into a smaller apartment and sell my home. I didn’t want to do any of that, so I began to succumb to whatever this thing was as it used its divisiveness to keep me from any enjoyment. Instead, I lingered in my home all day and night, roaming, trying to find things to do to take me out of sleep because sleep was when it came. Every door opened when I slept- everything from some unknown realm came to haunt me. Every sickness, void of mercy, was unleashed upon me. I begged for death if only it could let me go.
Instead, the thing gradually began to show itself to me, working in the shadows. It worked on my soul until I had nothing to mourn.
I woke up one night in particular to a face that looked terribly familiar, only it wasn’t my own staring back at me; it was my dead sisters. She had a mutilated skull and brain sticking out while black goo fell from her lips. Running gave me no escape; I only ran into him.
He was the chancellor of all things vile. He was the mask, the death, and he began to come for me every night.
The first time I saw his face, I was in the bath. I was finally relaxed to the point I could drift into the lavender scent of soap, salt, and flowers. Candles lit the tub, and I fell into its warmth. It hugged me like a mother and held me there until the candles went out all at once, and the tub full of water grew as cold as ice. My teeth were chattering as I looked around the bathroom for my phone to see the time. I must have fallen asleep, and hours must have passed. How else could this tub have grown so cold?
I found my phone and the moment I saw it – ten minutes had passed. Ten lousy minutes. I began to sit up and stood naked from the tub as the day I came into this world. Then the lights in the hallway went out, and the room became black. It was as if I were watching a play because this could not be real. I felt the air go out of me when his face slowly appeared in front of me in the hall. The bathroom door was wide open, not how I had left it. No one was there with me, only me and this demon. It slinked towards the entryway of the door. I looked at its inhuman gaze like a vice. Its eyes had teeth! Its mouth sunken in, its nose covered in cobwebs, and its skin covered in mold and mildew. It smelled like rotting flesh and stood as naked as me, with its flesh slinking like a haggard elderly person. Its cock was long hanging there in a disgusting symbol of assault. And I was disturbed by the fact that it seemed to show itself this way. We both stood naked in front of one another. Tears now fell from my eyes, and its skeleton legs began to walk towards me as I stood in the water.
It stepped into the bath, blackening the water as it slunk into my body, kissing me with its breath. I was breathing so hard and fast I could feel my heart beating so quickly I thought I would die of a heart attack. The touch of this thing made me feel gross and guilty, and terror filled every part of my neck. I could feel the goose pimples erupting, and when it finally released me from its disgusting kiss, I nearly vomited.
One of the candles lit itself then, and I could now see inside its teeth-filled eyes. I could see hell and bodies burning flesh in a haze of fire. I could see myself then reflected back into its gaze. It knew I was his from that moment I spoke of death, that moment I wished for Billy to die, and then I saw his death as I stared into its eyes. I felt the pain of my neck breaking, and my head unscrewed from its spine. I saw Billy’s head roll into the highway when it was severed, and I saw the semi-truck run over it, spilling its brains and shattering the skull into a thousand mushy pieces on the road. Instead of fear and guilt, I could only feel my lack of shame. It now shaped me, and this creature had come for me. When I died, I knew then I would join him.
Then the lights in the bathroom came on, and the thing was gone. I felt the water warm again, and the candles all lit. I looked in the mirror, and I could see myself. There was a black goo around my mouth where that thing had kissed me. I trembled, knowing my fate. I was not only marked for death but I was marked for hell.
I killed time for a while, trying to figure out my next moves. I had managed to shower off the goo from my body and put my robe on. I sat huddled onto my couch with the news on as I tried to search on my phone for any of my friends I could call.
My hands trembled as I looked at my contacts. There was not anyone I would ever want to tell what had happened to me- what had been happening these last ten years at least. I had opened up a doorway when I wished Billy to die. I knew it. I called out to something that day, and it came. Only once it saw the damage I could do it wanted to recruit me.
Fuck. Fuck, fuckety fuck. It was my only thought of how fucked I was. I was scrolling on Reddit and found a subreddit about supernatural experiences. I read them all, but nothing could equate to what I had experienced. Then one of the subreddits was for a woman who claimed to be a medium and helped those living in haunted houses clear the negative entities and did it for free if she felt the person truly needed the help. She had a face that reminded me of a cousin I used to be close to, so I wanted to reach out to her because I felt like I knew her in a way.
I wasted no time in reaching out. In the best-case scenario, she offered to help me. In the worst case, it was all full of shit. I was elated when I realized she lived only an hour away. It took her only a half hour to respond to my message.
Your message really touched me. I am so sorry that you are experiencing a haunting.
Here is my telephone number. Please call me when you get this message.
I called her number, and she sounded as profound as I expected. I had my experiences with psychics a time or two. Mostly tarot card readers that predicted boyfriends, but nothing like this. I had not reached out to someone that could help clear my home of dark entities. I prayed she could help me.
We met at a little coffee shop in the city when I met with her. I was already there when she came in, and I recognized her immediately. She had on a chiffon blouse with purple flowers. She had on several necklaces with crystals and loads of rings on her fingers. Her long dark curly hair was a chaotic mess that I assumed was how she liked it.
I stood up and shook her hand.
“Hello, you must be Jenny.”
“Yes, I am. Why don’t we sit down, and you tell me a bit about your experiences?”
So I told her about my experiences and how I believed it began. I told her about the strange male presence now haunting my home.
She looked at me very seriously. Then she took out a small book from her bag. She opened it to a page, read a passage under her breath, and then closed it, returning it to her bag.
“I think I need to see your house,” the woman said.
I agreed to have her come hoping she could dispel this demon from my house.
I had her meet me the next evening around six. I was surprised when she had two other men with her.
“I hope you won’t mind; this is Arnold and Dan. They help me in the process.”
The two men had what looked like ESP equipment, although I wasn’t sure because I had only seen that kind of stuff on television. I let the men walk around, thinking they were setting up some equipment. Jenny then took out what looked like a spirit board. She sat it in front of us, and I began to get nervous.
She had me place my hand on a circular planchette with strange symbols. Nothing happened at first. Then she had me close my eyes while she said she was evoking the spirit in my house.
“Why do you haunt Emily?”
She asked again, “Why do you hurt this precious child of God?”
The lights in my house went out, and I began to hear something fall in the kitchen. I took my hand off the spirit board just as Jenny pulled my face to hers. “You have to stay with me, no matter what you hear,”
I looked at her as once again I felt it. The board vibrated, and I wasn’t sure if she was doing it or if I was shivering. I could now feel the phantom’s presence in the room with Jenny and me. She looked a bit fearful, but she kept on asking questions.
The planchette began to spell words, and I nearly panicked when I realized what it said.
SHE IS NOT A CHILD OF GOD.
A gust of air blew our hair, and Jenny looked behind me. The two men she was with, who I had nearly forgotten about, were trying to walk off with my television and laptop.
I stood up immediately with a vengeance in my mind.
“Get the fuck out of my house before I call the cops!”
The two men laughed. “What do you think the cops would be able to do? You invited us here, lady,” said one of the men.
Jenny looked less sure. “Come on guys, this isn’t the best timing,”
“No, we are taking what you promised. You said this chick was a wack job, so who will believe her anyway?”
Then I saw him.
The lights in the kitchen flickered on and off where the two men were. Jenny was still standing in front of me.
I couldn’t run but was angry when I saw one of the two men run out the back with another of my items. I was frozen in place, unable to call out to tell him to stop. Then I looked at Jenny, whose eyes were now missing from her head. Inside her eyes were fingers poking through from hands attached to arms coming through the ceiling.
The men in the kitchen were gone, but the male presence was also here. He stood in the kitchen naked, his skin hanging from his body. Then he looked at the kitchen door that the man had just run from. He lifted his skinny arm and pointed toward the door with his long index fingers. I slowly walked towards the door and saw the man twisting as if something was twisting his body like a washcloth wrung from water.
I heard the man’s body cracking as it twisted and pulled the skin from his body. Blood and guts erupted from his abdomen.
The other man was speeding away down the street when I saw a tree fall onto the vehicle crushing it flat as a pancake.
I felt two things then. I felt immense power and immense fear. The fear took over as I, too, began to run. Only the phantom shut the doors and windows, shutting out all of the light and any means for my escape.
I began to cry and scream as I saw all of the blood, bones, and flesh from Jenny and the other man slide across the floor. Each blood drop moved like slime and spread out as if a flood of water. It all merged on the kitchen floor, and as it joined, it began to integrate into the phantom. All the meaty flesh showed under the skin of the apparition, whose skin usually hung from his body, now appeared to move in lumps under his skin as his body devoured the flesh of Jenny and her accomplice sent to rob me.
I was on the ground in shock and crying, wishing against all that was still holy that this thing would leave my life. As I sat there watching the last drop of blood from my kitchen floor merge into the phantom’s body, the kitchen door opened. The body of the man killed in the car blew into the kitchen entrance as if a tornado had sent him. He still had pieces of metal and a large tree branch stuck in his forehead. One of his eyes was falling from its socket.
He, too, merged into the body of the vengeful phantom- sticks- metal and all.
The kitchen door slammed, and the Phantom stood watching me with its arms stretched outward toward me.
I very fearfully reached my hand out to it. As it touched me, I saw it shapeshift- molding itself like clay- into me!
I stood watching myself looking at myself like a distorted reflection in the mirror. Only it was not a mirror I was looking at. I saw my eyes through this creature’s mimicking me. They were dark, vengeful, and uncaring. There was not a drop of empathy in me. After all that had happened to me- I was watching myself as this creature saw me.
I was the one that had grown dark, downtrodden, spiritless, merciless, and even murder was okay now. Watching Jenny and her two accomplices, I only felt satisfied that they were punished.
I watched this version of myself suddenly grin back at me. Then as if it never existed, it backed away into the shadows where it had come.
When it was gone, the lights in my house turned back on. The spirit board that Jenny had brought with her was still there.
I stood for a long while, wondering what I should do. I had brought this thing into my life, and only I could make it go.
Yet, the thought kept gnawing at me. Did I want it to go?
It had ruined my life.
At least, that is what I thought. Then I was sitting in my office one afternoon when I received a phone call. It was from Desmond. It had been over two years since I had spoken to my nephew.
I wasn’t even sure there was anything left to say.
“Shocked to hear from me?” I interrupted.
“Well, things didn’t end very well the last time we spoke.”
“I guess I have been doing some soul-searching. I no longer blame you for what happened to my dad. I know what he put my mom through when I was a kid. It was stupid of me to blame you for everything that happened in my life. I know you tried your best. Can I come by later to see you if it isn’t too much trouble?”
I agreed and was actually excited to see him.
When he came to my house, I saw he was driving a decent car and was dressed in a suit. He was a far cry from the messy kid I had last visited. Now he was a young man.
When he came into the house, he walked in slowly as if he was afraid a bomb would go off.
“It’s okay; I’m not going to bite,” I chuckled.
He hugged me, and then he tightened his grip on me.
“I missed you,” he said, finally releasing me.
I smiled and offered him something to drink. He declined. Instead, we chatted for nearly two hours about what he had been up to.
When the time was getting late, he asked if he could see his old bedroom.
“Sure, but it is mostly storage boxes now,” I said to him,
I let him inside, and he looked around for a moment when I noticed him grab something from over the windowsill of his bedroom window. It looked like a pendant of some kind. I didn’t ask him what it was. I just let him take it. I was afraid to pry after our newly found closeness.
He said he’d come by again soon and wished me well.
As he got into his car, I saw the phantom sitting in the back seat of his car.
I was scared because I was afraid it would hurt him. I didn’t want him to get hurt by this vengeful spirit. I ran to get my phone to call him, but it went straight to voicemail.
Two days later, I woke from a nightmare that my nephew had done something to me. In the dream, he had used a pendant he stole from one of his teachers in fourth grade and put it in his bedroom, leaving it when he left. He had spoken to it every night, wishing I would feel his pain. He was using the charm to curse me after his father died.
The following day I woke up feeling very anxious, but the dark feeling that had been with me for over ten years was somehow gone.
I received a phone call from a nurse at a hospital. It was my nephew. He had grown very ill and was asking to see me.
I felt that everything inside of me had everything to do with this curse. The vengeful spirit attached to this pendant he had taken was now attacking him.
When I entered the hospital, they directed me to a room at the end of the hall for patients with severe mental illness. It didn’t seem right. He was perfectly fine only a few days before.
I spoke to the nurse before going to see him.
“He hasn’t been doing well. He began getting very sick on and off. He had been seeing a doctor in town, but he stopped taking his meds, and a month ago, he tried to take his own life. He was placed in a room by himself so he could be monitored. We were afraid he would hurt himself or someone else. He has been at this on and off for a year.”
I looked at the woman strangely. “But I just had a visit from my nephew two days ago. He was the picture of health.”
The woman looked at me strangely.
“Sometimes Desmond can appear very rational. But then he relapses like he does now. I’m sorry that you didn’t know.”
I stood for a long moment and then went to see him.
“Desmond, I came as soon as I heard,” I said, sitting next to his bed and taking his hand.
“Aunt Em. I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have done it. It was stupid. I think it followed me here.”
“What are you talking about?”
“The spirit. I discovered one of my teachers was a voodoo priestess, or so I thought, so I stole one of her pendants when she wasn’t looking. I thought I would use it to get back to you. So I wished and wished that you would be punished like me. I was so sad after my dad died.”
I started to remember my dream. Everything in the plan was confirmed. I began to feel sad, unsure as to how to feel. Then I realized with greater fear in me than ever before that the charm Desmond stole all those years ago was how it became attached to me. Now, for whatever reason, it wanted to be with Desmond. Desmond had taken the charm back, thinking he was doing right by me after all these years, but instead, he was only putting himself in harm’s way. I could see that now. I had to get the charm back before it hurt Desmond.
I looked into Desmond’s eyes as seriously as I ever had. “Desmond, where is the charm you took from your old room? I need you to give it back to me.”
Desmond ignored my question. “Aunt Em, everything is going to be okay now.”
“Desmond, I need you to give me the charm. It is very dangerous.”
“Aunt Em, it is okay. I’m going to be with my mom and dad now.”
“What are you talking about?”
“No, really, it’s okay. It’s okay n-” He was gone before he could get the next word out. It was as if something pushed a button and shut him off.
I called for the nurse, and they rushed in.
It was too late. Somehow Desmond had gotten a hold of some medicine and overdosed before anyone knew.
I was confused and scared and still couldn’t find the pendant. Maybe if I could see it, I could end this curse myself.
For a few days, I managed to grieve in my own way, and then there was a small funeral. Tara was there with me. She stayed for a week to make sure I was okay.
The last day she was there, we were talking, and she was helping me clean some of Desmond’s things out. I was donating most of it to the Salvation Army. It seemed like a better idea than tossing it. There was a part of me that couldn’t look at anything that belonged to him. I have so much guilt now. The guilt I didn’t think I’d ever have again.
Tara decided it would be best for me to join her for the weekend at her apartment in Pittsburgh, two hours away. She said I needed a break.
I reluctantly agreed with her.
She was helping me with my bags, and I had to run into the kitchen to get my sunglasses. I went to the front door, and I froze. I saw myself get into her car. It wasn’t me- it was that damn phantom as it had become me. I tried to open the front door but couldn’t get it to open. I screamed, hoping Tara would hear me so I could tell her it was not me getting into the car.
Then I went to grab my phone to call her, but when I saw the phone, it was dead except for a text to myself- from myself that said, “NICE TRY. SHE IS MINE NOW.”