Daytime is hell. The moonlight is mine. I could never sleep. Stood over my mother and father, as they slept. A knife in my hand, a tear on my cheek. I couldn’t do it. Along with the pain they caused, there was love. I knew they couldn’t help it. Dum and Mad.
I made friends with the shadows to stop the torment. Watched bubbles blow and flow on a breeze I controlled with my mind. I saw faces everywhere. Fiends. The creeps spoke to me.
My mother said the ghost in my room would leave when I turned twelve. At thirteen, I started to believe that she was a liar.
Catherine wasn’t an annoying ghost or a mean ghost, or a ghost that carved cryptic messages into the rafters, or whispered pervy stuff into my friends’ ears while we played video games, or sent a gust of wind over the curve of my girlfriend’s ass the first time we fucked. She just talked to me when I needed a buddy. She spent the rest of her time reading tattered books in my closet. When I’d reach in for my jacket, I’d ask what she was reading, and she’d always say, “You wouldn’t get it.” I guess I believed her, because how could I argue? She’d already lived an entire life.
The sirens were raging in the train. Voluptuous, caped, red lips clinging to fangs, cascading curls ropy with sweat. No, the vibration. Screeching in our ears. Green flashing lights. We came out of the tunnel and the lights came back on, yellow and warm and familiar. The police had made an arrest. The train chugged and slowed and whined and then, slowly, picked up speed and we were on our way. We pulled ourselves off the ground and found our seats. When our stop was next we pulled the chain.
The party was in an old house atop one of the tumbling hills. We climbed the switch-backing streets. Below, the fog was settling over the city, whose lights were fading yellow flashes in the blue-wet atmosphere. The streets were quiet, but we weren’t. The air, clean and moist, filled our lungs, and we filled the air with song; shanties, rhymes, nationalistic pop, the like. Here among the cold houses and trees the sensors were less watchful. We were poets but clerks and machinists and assembly workers, we were poor, we were unnoticed, we were young and the nights never seemed to end.
At midnight, he invited me back for curry, and I am a sucker for shy excuses. He never turned on the lights. We never had curry. I heard the scratching then but ignored it. I was drunk and wanted his pants off.
I screamed, waking at dawn. A clear plastic tunnel ran over my head, around the room, and through the walls. Looking down at me was a penis with sawed-off teeth.
“Naked mole rats,” he said into the pillow. He’d brought home that many women.
I threw up again this morning.
This hasn’t happened in months, but the burn feels the same as it always does.
Last night’s sandwich spurts, then drips, out of me: a fire that runs on it’s own because my eyes are shut tight, shoving out the light.
Wish it was a hangover.
Or food poisoning.
The flu, something I could cure.
I was a senior in high school when headaches forced themselves into my daily life, when I woke up with a little bit of the night before’s food stuck to my lip because the pain secured its place again. Caused me to perish. Succumb. Stay in bed. Cry. Run to the bathroom. Vomit. Sit with my legs crossed and stretch my arms over my head. Close my eyes. Focus on the pounding. Let it create a symphony made of pain, one that played only in my ear drums.
I’d think of the the pain, feed it like an addiction.
It reminded me to feel.
Feel deeply. (more…)
She often felt eyes on her. There would always be signs near her home, Don’t go out past midnight, don’t stand out, don’t show that you are resisting. When she would pick her flowers in her garden, an iris would stare back at her. Some would say she’s going mad. Her attire was only added with lace around the edges, never underneath, and she lived in a small home, maybe with no lurking eyes, made sure her nose was clean.
Am I going mad?
I can’t have any thoughts.
Everything must be in order, nothing out of place. Eyes track her daily, don’t mess up, don’t mess up-
The clock chimed, the hands twisted and turned. 11:00 (more…)
“He snickered disagreeably. ‘Me, no,’ he said, ‘me, I don’t hang around here after dark.’ Grinning, satisfied with himself, he stood away from the car … perhaps he will keep popping out at me all along the drive, she thought, a sneering Cheshire Cat, yelling each time that I should be happy to find anyone willing to hang around this place, until dark, anyway.”
Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House
There will always be a Dudley the caretaker dispensing unwanted advice, undermining your resolve to go on that year-long safari, or ignore those travel advisories from the State Department, or explore that haunted house—give up your job, your apartment, and just take off without telling any friends. Maybe you consider your friends much too cautious, or have no friends you care about. You’re drawn to the dark. You crave the unknown, the thrill of finally leaving the ordinary behind.
You’ve been invited to Hill House by some paranormal researcher you don’t know, your monstrous mother’s finally dead, you’re free to go. You’re haunted too. You’ve been having dreams where you run up and down stairways, out of breath, corridors twist and turn and you’re completely lost, no way to retrace your steps. You quicken your pace and your heart begins to pound. Whispers from the empty elevator shaft are getting louder. Is it your mother, come back from the dead? You peer down into the darkness, swaying on your feet.
When you accepted the invitation to spend a week with strangers, you were thinking a real haunted house might dispel those dreams and memories. Or maybe you weren’t really thinking, just obeying your instinct to escape now that the door to your cage was open.