The emptiness of space is staggering. The complexity and sheer enormity is beyond any humans comprehension. The distance between us and the sun is by no means small, but compared to the distance between us and another galaxy, it is pathetically insignificant. Those thoughts alone were enough to drive my child mind crazy, and that horrifying feeling resurfaced 3 years, and not in a way that I'd have hoped.
I was walking home from the mall, a new video game in hand and an itch to start kicking ass. Music blasting through my overpriced headphones, I was still trying to find a way to kickstart happiness. The video game was an impulse purchase, a means of trying to get this day to fly by faster. The cars were zipping by, the dense fog not slowing them down at all. Unsurprisingly there had been an accident an hour ago near the mall, someone ripping their front bumper off and causing quite a nasty bump to the taxi in front of them. While interesting to watch unfold, it was a cue to get home and away from the daft drivers.
I ran up the grassy hill, careful not to slip on the rocks as I had done countless times. I, of course, did, and promptly started singing out a string of swears that would make Ozzy proud. The street, a small cul-de-sac, was empty. This was unusual, as the weather here is pretty predictable and the kids have never been stopped by such a thing before. Nonetheless, it merely made the walk more enjoyable without having to look every 3 seconds to make sure you weren't about to step on the head of some innocent child. I slid the headphones around my neck, fishing the keys out of my pocket and prancing up the stairs to unlock the door. The key strained as the deadlock made the satisfying thunk as it clicked in, letting the door open. I, without looking, twisted the door handle and walked inside, still looking at my phone to check my email.
As the door shut behind me, something became startling. There was no light. This was a problem as it was 3 in the afternoon and my door was surrounded by windows. I looked up and immediately dropped my phone. The space was vast, beyond anything you could have ever imagined. Everything was beyond black, something devoid of all color. That's what I've come to call it now anyway. The void. I retrieved my phone from the ground, the dull glow from the naughty screensaver illuminating my shoes. I couldn't help it but I uttered a very distinct “What the hell”.
This is when the panic sank in. A couple of minutes must have passed before I backed up, hoping and praying to hit the doorknob. I didn't hit anything. I turned around and there was nothing. Nothing as far as the eye could see. My feet didn't feel as if they were touching anything solid. It was like walking on a cloud that some how kept me sustained. Then again, I'm not sure if I was moving at all, or if my feet were connecting. Naturally I unlocked my phone and tried calling 911, hoping I was suffering a psychotic break and this was something that could be fixed. The only response from my phone was a “No signal” notification and a dropped call.
I spent the next hour worrying. I was in the middle of nowhere, quite literally, and I was unsure of what to do. After consulting my phone for the 15th time I decided to walk ahead and keep going until something happened. After all, it couldn't be entirely empty could it? Well, it was. I walked for what felt like hours, only to check my mobile to see that 10 minutes have passed. In a sigh of frustration, the first noise I've made since my declaration of what the hell, I had a response.
Something had tried to copy the noise I had made, and failed miserably. I passed it as an echo first but my brain screamed, asking what was there to echo on. I gulped, audibly, and whispered aloud “Hello?” The response I received was horrifying. My hair stood on end as what sounded like feedback from a bullhorn screamed throughout the void. The feedback had some sort of rhythm to it. It wasn't just an electronic screech, it sounded like it was trying to say hello. I turn and bolted, running away from whatever I had encountered but it was everywhere and it wasn't stopping. Suddenly there was light ahead, a small speck and I ran towards it, flinging every ounce of available energy into powering my fat legs as they bolted towards this minuscule dot of hope.
It didn't take long before the dot was the size of a doorway and it didn't take long for me to reach even that, but before I did something stood in front of it. A silhouette of a man appeared, blocking my path to what I had hoped to be salvation.
I screeched to a halt, nearly tripping over an undone shoelace and dropping my mobile again. We stood, facing each other, until it spoke. “Why do you flee?” My voice was faltering, unable to gather the courage to face such an unknown. After multiple squeaks and voice clearings, I spoke up. “Because I am afraid.” The shadows head slowly moved, like a curious dog, cocked to one side as it spoke again. “Why are you afraid?” I didn't falter this time. “Well, I suppose being plucked from what I had known to be my existence and plunged into a pit of pure emptiness will do that to someone.”
I continued to stare at this figure, trying to find some facial features amongst the humanoid shape. Eventually it faded away, letting the light rip through the chasm that it had created. I ran towards the light and broke through, finding myself, oddly, in my kitchen. My roommate was out, as a post-it stuck to the fridge had declared, and I immediately poured myself a drink of scotch.
A situation like that will freak the hell out of everyone, and I can honestly say that I was unsure how to respond. Should I call the hospital and ask to speak to a psychatrist, or should I shrug it off and continue with my life. After half of the bottle of scotch was gone, I went to my bedroom to turn on my new video game, trying to forget the harrowing experience.
As the rest of the day progressed, it slipped to the back of my mind. I had been frequently brought to re-evaluate what had happened but instead of dealing with the problem I had decided to procrastinate my survey of my mental health. That night I did not sleep easy. Tossing and turning for what felt like forever, afraid to close my eyes as the void returned.
I rolled onto my back, my head against the pillow and I felt a pressure on the bed. I did not open my eyes, for fear of the unknown, but chose to ignore it. This became a very difficult feat as it moved from my feet to my midsection, then towards my shoulders. I opened my eyes, fearing what was before me. I looked up, and was surprised to see absolutely nothing. I breathed a deep sense of relief until I noticed I could not see anything. Not the dull glow of my alarm clock, not the low level light from the outside lampost. As I came to realize this, a voice spoke inside of my head, whispering.
“Are you still afraid?”
I burst up, sitting bolt upright in my bed as the sweat poured from my back and down my forehead. I slapped my face, telling myself it was a dream. A dream spurred on by the alcohol, but a dream nonetheless. As I was lowering myself back into the bed, I saw something move in the closet. To be more accurate, I saw nothing move. Not a speck of dust and not a ray of light. I saw a piece of the void move in my closet.
It has been 4 days since that encounter and as I look at my closet now, I can see the nothing and I can feel it looking into me. Every night it still asks me if I'm afraid. I'm no longer afraid of it. I'm just afraid of what will happen if I say no.
You could hear the faint sound of each drop of blood landing in the puddle below it, falling off the tips of his fingers. Granted, you could only hear it when he stopped screaming but if you got past the sobbing, there it was. That's what I listened for. The every steady drop, splashing down in time with a metronome. It kept my head on straight whenever I started to get worked up, kept me going whenever I got bored.
There was a lone light bulb hanging over our heads, swinging in sync with the drip. The legs of the chairs cast tiny shadows, little lines continuously dancing around on the cracked concrete floor. I watched them twirl for a few seconds, before looking back at the man in the chair. His flesh was torn, wounds gaping and half closed. Clotted blood was smeared all over him, for every time the blood flow slowed, I wrenched the wound open again. I gave a little smile and reached for the alligator clips. His head started to buck back preemptively, weary of the constant torture he's been exposed to.
You always knew when you were electrocuting them right because there was an instant feedback to show you. Whenever a current was established, that lone light flickered. Whenever it did you could see almost see a faint glow from the eyes of whatever poor bastard was in the chair. This time was no exception. I let it go for a few seconds before pulling back, placing the clips back on the table.
“Again. What was her name?” No response. I had been asking this question for hours, but he had been surprisingly resilient. Much more so than I had expected from someone like him. He was protecting a villain, or so I was told. I didn't care for the reasons. They were usually just political wording so someone could justify to themselves what they were doing. I didn't need a justification.
I picked up the clips again, and his moaning intensified. It was clear he was afraid of the pain, but it wasn't enough. “You shouldn't protect her. She is causing you this grief, and it will keep happening until you give me the answer I'm looking for. No one needs to know it was you, no one needs to find out that you told me, but you cannot keep this up. There isn't much left of you, and if you keep holding back then your heart is going to blow. There are only 3 things in this room, sir. Your life, that light, and the lie. One of those is going to give out before today is over, and I replaced that light bulb yesterday.”
It all started with a knock at the door. It was a late Christmas Eve, and it took some time for my father to separate himself long enough to answer the door and turn on the light. I followed him through the crowd of people I didn't know, friends of my father. My dad opened the door, the cold air stinging my face from my position next to my father's leg. There in the doorway was a very tall, pale creature. Its long, spindly limbs were settled close to its frame, its knees tucked against its chin as it attempted to fit within the short expanses of the porch.
“It's cold...Can I come in?”
Its face betrayed nothing of the motives behind its presence, save a warm smile settled low below a pair of bloodshot eyes. Its hair was drawn back and greasy, its form seeming to be lost between distinctions, rendering it without a sense of gender. The only clothes it wore was a single white nightie, its bare feet ending in purpled flesh surrounding blue toenails that sunk and trembled in the snow.
I looked back at the den, where all the stockings were hung. My mothers was still in the in the box. Dad said it wouldn't be going up this year...Meanwhile, the song “Santa Claus is Coming Town” began to play, the other members of my family yet to be aware of that horror that crouched at our front door.
“You better not pout, you better not cry, you better no shout I'm telling you why...”