The room was bright. So bright that it hurt her eyes. Light spilled out from everywhere. The wall panels were white with radiance and the unseen ceiling hidden high above her was lost to the shine. It was like she was standing in nothing as the white light cascaded everything. There was so much of it and the brightness was turned up to such a degree that it hurt her eyes. She couldn’t see anything because it l blinded her. Tears rolled down her cheeks and even when she closed her eyes, that glow surrounding her was still there. She couldn’t escape from it.
It was another white room. She was in a padded room. It was her room, she just knew it. She had told her friends and they thought she was crazy and now she would be locked away forever.
She would never see her brother again…
Maybe he would come and visit, just like you visit him her inner voice said sarcastically. She knew she was right. He would never come. How often did she ever visit him, even when he was having another form of treatment.
“Hey! Help me! Someone help me!” She screamed. No one responded. She was left alone to the silence of the maddening hum of electric lights.
She rushed to the wall and slammed her hand into it. She had tried to watch it hit home, but her hand disappeared into the light a second before it made that dull thud. When she pulled her hand back, there was a light trail as she tried to blink away the brilliant light shadows.
Where was the door? If she was in this room, someone had to have put her there. There had to be a door. She just had to find it.
“Let me out!”
She pounded against the wall. Then she pounded again. Inside her she felt something shifting. A change was going on inside of her. She was scared, who wouldn’t be? She woke up in a padded room, no memory of how she had gotten there. She had been thrown off by how bright it was, but that didn’t change that someone had taken her. She had been afraid and just wanted to crawl up in the corner and start crying, begging that someone let her out.
But what did that accomplish?
She had started pounding the wall. She moved along with her hands, pounding more and more. Each time she moved, she hit harder and harder. Her fists felt like hammers and they were destroying layers beneath the ones that were lit, but as she moved along, she never found the corner or even the door. The wall just continued on with no end.
Her heart was racing and she felt her blood burning with intensity. Each blow to the wall she found a deeper strength reserve and kept pushing herself to break through.
“Come on you bastards! Let me out! Show yourselves and Let me out!”
Her fist slammed down and she heard something. It didn’t sound like the padding this time. What was that? Could it be? She didn’t want to get her hopes up, but now instead of moving further down the wall, she stayed and brought her fist down again.
Sure enough, that had been a cracking sound she’d heard. It was like glass breaking. Not the regular stuff. Regular glass shatters when it breaks, but this sounded like tempered glass and she could hear it as the glass cracked. She brought her fist down again and more glass crackled under the force of her hammer headed fist. Again and again the blows rained down.
The white light flickered and turned red as blood splashed across its surface. It never darkened enough to see the wall, but the flashes grew longer and spreader around her. The whole room was flickering, not all at once, but different parts at different times as though a strobe light had started to rotate around her. It was moving around her, sudden pockets of darkness shifting furiously in the light, but the light shadows so intense that she would be able to really see the darkness until it was gone, the bright light again assaulting her where just moments before had been shadow.
Then all light was gone, the remnants of it still creating exploding stars in her vision and her mind playing tricks on her between the world of light and dark. As she watched the darkness beyond, her vision swam with light that swallowed the dark just to have the dark again swallowed by the light.
It’s like when you were a girl and closed your eyes. You remember seeing it then, how the black consumes the white just to then again be lost to the white.
It was an endless game as the light and dark danced around her, the walls uncertain as all traces of them gone. She could be in an endless void for as far as she knew.
She had to stop it or succumb to it. She already felt her consciousness slipping into the void cascading around her. She needed to focus, but on what?
Inside she felt that fire that had been burning dwindling down and she knew, suddenly she knew she could not let it fade to embers. She had to fuel the flame. Her anger needed to burn.
She closed her eyes, pushing away the thoughts of the light/dark show that continued. Instead she let her mind wander until it fell upon her father.
“Dad,” she whispered. “How could you.”
How could he… How could he leave her to take care of her brother or to finish growing up on her own. How could he not be there to help guide her through figuring out what it is she wanted to do with her life. How could he not be here for her when she lost her best friend, or to be here as she thought she was going crazy, is going. She still wasn’t sure, but he wasn’t here so what did it matter. He wasn’t here when she needed him most. How could he leave her alone.
Both of them. She missed them both, but it had been her father driving the car, so she could blame him. Blame was a hard thing, but when it came to fanning the flames of anger it was gasoline to spark.
She felt it rising up inside of her, rising up and intertwined with anguish and hurt to form a deep rage at her father abandoning her.
“Ahhh!” She bellowed out a primordial roar and started slamming out her fists. She hadn’t moved away from where the wall had been, and now tried to bring her fists back down to again hammer into its surface, but with all her might she only hit air.
“Tik-a-tat, tik-a-tee, what shall we be?”
She recognized the voice. Her chest clenched and she had to fight from losing that burning anger as she spun. Around her it remained the blackness, and she didn’t see anyone. He was there though. Now that he spoke, she was listening more intently, trying to focus on the raspy breathing she heard. Though it somehow always managed to stay behind her no matter how fast she turned, she could hear those deep intakes of breath.
Fear will not win. Fear will not win. I will not let it take me. So where are you, you son of a bitch.
“Come on you bastard!” She yelled into the darkness, billowing out with it, pushing back again the cloud of fear that had tried to overtake her. She was going to lose this fight. She’d let it get to her before, but this was getting old and she was getting tired of running.
“Tik-a-tee, tik-a-tet, we’re not done yet.” She heard the voice and felt the hot breath on her shoulder. She turned, swinging wide as to make sure not to miss in the darkness. Her fist felt the heat of warm air, but where she had hoped to hit him, there was nothing.
She was determined to hold on to her anger. She kept punching the air, hoping to have her fist drive home and hear the man call out in pain. But it isn’t a man, and you can’t hit air, that voice said inside her head. That didn’t stop her. She swirled and spun more, but was growing more frustrated and desperate.
Come on! Hit him! Your better than this.
Was she? She had never been much of a fighter. She had never gotten into a fight, not even with Natalie when Lizzie had heard the rumor that she was screwing around with Roland who had still been her boyfriend. She had seen her flirting with him, and Lizzie had wanted to hit her, to beat the ever living shit out of her.
Though her not doing it had more to do with Sarah calming her down than Lizzie chickening out. Still, she had never hit anyone. She wasn’t sure she even knew how. Sure, just ball up your fist and swing, but wasn’t there also a way of breaking your own thumb if you did it wrong? That’s what she’d seen in the movies.
None of it mattered as she felt the anger fading. The shadow man was there, how was she ever supposed to handle him. He couldn’t be hit, or hurt, she should know that.
Though in truth, she didn’t know what to believe because if he could touch her and breath on her, then she should be able to hit him. It was the Freddy Krueger theory, that if he could hurt and kill, then he can be hurt. Though if Lizzie remembered right, that didn’t work out for ‘what’s her name’ in that movie.
Lizzie wasn’t a huge fan of horror movies, but Roland had been and had subjected to a number of vintage 80’s films that he termed as ‘classics.’ She thought they were old and cheesy but that never stopped him. He did get annoyed with her occasional jabs at their corniness, but mostly they were gross with many people being sliced over in increasingly gory ways.
In that first Freddy movie, she remembered that one. It was when the girl tried to bring Freddy to the real world so she could kill him, the idea being that if she could bring articles of his clothing across, she could bring him across.
Though, as she continued to strike at the air, her arms more flailing uselessly as she kept trying, she realized the fault. She didn’t have anywhere to bring the shadow man. He was here with her, and just because he could touch her, that didn’t mean she could touch him. It was a false argument. There was no guarantee that if she hit him she could hurt him.
Around her the room grew bright, she was back in the well lit padded room, staring at the walls. There was no longer any sign of her blood on the wall in front of her or any of the walls around her. It was like she was somehow transported to a new room, everything she had done before completely wiped away.
“tik-a-tat…” The voice had become low, almost like a growl. It was behind her and something told her she shouldn’t turn around to look, that if she stayed there, she would be safe. He wouldn’t attack her back. Of course not…
None of that was true. He’d attack her back, her front, her side or if he had the chance, he would attack her while she was laying down and he had access to her feet. So it didn’t matter if she turned or not.
That didn’t make it any easier and she found herself turning to face him slowly, not wanting to see him again.
He stood in the far corner some distance from her. He was dark, even in the light and she vaguely remembered anything about him from before. She knew he had nearly been on her before, so much that she had smelled his sour breath, and still didn’t know what he looked like.
Even now when she looked at him, she couldn’t tell what he looked like. She was close enough to make out something about him, but other than his black clothes, there was nothing. It was like his face was hidden in shadows even as light shined on him. Then there was his general shape. She swore that it kept changing as she watched him. There was some kind of thick dark haze around him and shifted with him. Perpetual fog that kept her from ever truly see anything about him.
It was like he was smoke in the shape of a man, but how was that possible?
That laugh of his filled the room, vibrating off the walls around her. Then he took a step towards her and the room shook. Another step and then another, each time the room crashing down around her. Inside, that fire she had was gone. If she wasn’t so terrified, she might have ran towards him and slammed a slurry of blows into him. Now, with each step, she felt her heart skip a beat. Her breathing was coming in quick gasps, and she felt those familiar tears.
He neared her and she could smell that familiar musty smell of wet earth that permeated around him. He took another step towards her and a piece of the ceiling crashing near her. She couldn’t stop herself from taking a stab back. It didn’t help as he was nearly on top of her and now she could see two glowing orbs that must have been his eyes.
“Tik-a-tat, tik-a-tor, for now there is one more.” The thing said. Then it was gone, it’s laugh lingering in a loud torrent that violently fumbled around her. More of the ceiling was falling, the whole room was tearing itself apart around her.
She felt the tears sting her cheeks as the lights went out leaving her to complete darkness. But now, the darkness was left with that laugh that just kept on, growing as it came from all around her. She felt herself vibrating. Then she was shaking and she thought she was going to vomit as every part of her was twisting and rocketing back and forth. She’d never felt something push her around so vehemently.
Then she felt the floor beneath her give away, and the last thing she remembered was that she was falling helplessly to her death.
It took Lizzie longer than it should have to realize that she was waking up from the nightmare. The world around her still shook and the laughter, his laughter, followed her even when she opened her eyes and saw she was back in her own bedroom.
Had all that only been a dream? It had been so real… But no, it hadn’t. She hadn’t felt the pain when she hit the wall. She should have realized that. Damn dream logic.
“Lizzie, wake up!” Sarah was yelling at her and the shaking? It was Sarah and Elisabeth somehow, Lizzie wasn’t sure just quite how they were doing it, shaking her bed.
They hadn’t been able to move things before, how were they doing this? She didn’t have time to think about it too much as she saw their worried faces as they were looking down at her. They were scared, but they were dead. What could scare them?
“What?” She said. Her voice was little more than a whisper, her throat dry and raspy as she was still not fully awake.
The laughing wasn’t going away, but it changed. It didn’t sound like it had in her dream. It wasn’t that growing cackle that had shook the room, but it was a deep raucous sound that was exploding out of the other room. It was coming from Sarah’s room.
Lizzie’s face went pale and she turned to her best friend, then to Elisabeth.
They both turned to the open door. Across the hallway was Sarah’s old room, the door wide open.
She hadn’t stayed at Jessica and Dennis’. They had been kind enough to offer and had pushed saying that they had plenty of room for her, but she still said no. She understood their concern. They didn’t want her sleeping alone, not there in that apartment she had once shared with Sarah. What they didn’t realize was that she still shared the apartment with her.
The first night she had slept in the apartment she had done just like she had always had. When she had gone to bed, she had made sure all the doors were locked and the inside doors were all closed.
It had driven her three guests nuts. Well, one dead roommate and two guests. The apartment had been Sarah’s too, and when she’d been woken up around two a.m. because they were all bored, she had been reminded of that. It seems that dead people don’t sleep, and without friends to torment, they get bored.
Since then she’d gotten in the habit of keeping open all the doors in the apartment and the television on. That is, all the doors but her own. Not her room. Her door always stayed closed. Last night had been the exception.
Coming home after the funeral and being with Jessica and Dennis had left her in an awful state and she couldn’t stand to be alone. Lizzie and Elisabeth had been happy to stay with her and it had almost felt like a slumber party until she, mid-party, crashed.
That had left her leaving all the doors open, even her bedroom’s. Oh no, that meant that Chuck could have been in there watching her sleep at anytime. Who knows what he might have tried to check out.
She knew this was a childish thought. It wasn’t like guys hadn’t seen her naked, though never when she hadn’t wanted them to. Him checking her out while she was sleeping was not cool.
She looked at Sarah who was still looking at the other room, scared. What could spook a dead woman? She was already dead.
“Sarah? What is it?”
Sarah slowly turned to look at her, her remaining eye wide. “He’s in there,” she whispered.
“Who, Chuck? What’s he doing in your-“ Lizzie was going to say room, but before she could say this blunder she saw that Sarah was already shaking her head.
Lizzie looked back to the open door. If it wasn’t Chuck, then who was in that room?
She couldn’t stop it. The memories of that naked man as the maggot slid from his scrotum to land on her chin twisted her stomach. The laugh wasn’t right. She was pretty sure of that, but could she be certain? She remembered the penis lurking over her and later looking into Sarah’s eyes, but other than that most of that day had become a hazy blur. Could she say for sure that wasn’t his laugh? She didn’t think she could.
But how could he have found her? The police had said he had been dead. It couldn’t be him.
He could find me. He had already been dead when he attacked Sarah and I, so what was possible didn’t make sense anymore…
Yet she was surrounded by dead people. They were becoming a part of her everyday life. She was beginning to think that the dead just don’t stay dead anymore.
No. that had definitely not been his laugh. It had stopped of course, the other room now eerily quite. The whole apartment was. The two people hovering over her weren’t making a sound. All of them were watching that open door and the other room.
“What’s going on? Sarah?” Lizzie tried to whisper as quietly as she could.
“Some guy showed up. He went in there.”
“Should I call 911?” As soon as she said it, she realized just how stupid the question was but it was too late, the words had already escaped her. To her surprise, Sarah shook her head.
“I think he’s dead.”
“If not, he’s got a terminal case of missing-the-back-of-your-head disease.” Elisabeth whispered and Lizzie had to struggle to take her eyes off the woman. Of course if it was another dead person now joining her undead entourage they would be able to see how the person died. All of them had the tell tale signs like gory tattoos, each identifying their deaths. They were the bleeding but not bleeding wounds, as blood sometimes seemed to trickle but no messes were ever found beneath these walking corpses that followed her.
“Who’s dead?” Lizzie whispered as she tossed away the tangled covers and pushed herself out of bed.
“No clue.” Sarah said as she looked over at Elisabeth who shard her ignorance and was shaking her head.
Who the hell was in the other bedroom? She didn’t want to go in there, but she had to find out. Besides, they couldn’t hurt her, right? Both her and the dead person would get intensely sick so it wasn’t even possible.
The wood panel floor was cold to her bare feet as she stepped into the hallway. The air in the apartment had a chill as well and she wondered what it was like outside? Had the temperature finally dropped? Should she be turning on the furnace. The little fog of her breath escaping as she breathed made her think it was time.
Behind her, Elisabeth and Sarah both hung back in her room. Of course the two dead people were hanging back afraid. After all, what did Lizzie have to lose? Only her life, so you know, no big deal.
She gave them both dirty looks before turning back and taking another step towards the room.
A crash came from inside the room and Lizzie quickly was beginning to realize that everything she had thought she had known or had learned about the dead was wrong.
Fearing the worse, she took the last step and entered the room.