A few weeks ago, my better half suggested that we try our hand at writing a creepy story. Since we have both been avid fans of the horror genre since childhood, it may turn out to be an amusing pastime.
So, as a tribute to the two television series, which I spent countless hours watching in my youth, The Twilight Zone and Night Gallery, I have written the following tale. And I affectionately dedicate it to one David Jefferson Bean.
Okay, honey. Here’s mine; where’s yours?
There are six generations of pictures in this room. In the dusty sunshine that pours through the one, cracked, century-old painted window, I see hundreds of faces that decorate these walls. The once colorful wallpaper garden of pink and red roses, with green leaves, now resembles splotches of ancient-old, dried, and washed out blood. And the faded lines, which at one time were the flower's stems, now appear as distorted connect-the-dot puzzles conjured up from my youth.
I see it, now, Ma. It’s a …
I wonder, if I stare at the walls long enough, will they piece together the mystery of what I’m doing here?
As my mind continues to wander, I remember that I swore I’d never return to this godforsaken place. A hastily made vow from the lips of an angry teenager, perhaps, but a solemn pledge, nonetheless: A promise kept for thirty years – until now.
As the only surviving member of a self-destructive, antagonistic family, I find myself standing in the last place on earth I want to be. These rooms, pieced together as one big mass of bad memories, are where the evil, in me, was created: Hell, they brought out the evil in all of us – all who have inhabited her. I've had these thoughts since the tender age of five. That is when I first encountered the iniquity of her every board and stone: I heard voices in the night, visions of corpses plagued my dreams, even the air seemed to have a life of its own.
As ridiculous as it sounds, I believed that if I left this place, this house, behind me – permanently – then, I’d become a better person: A different person.
No such luck, “I am as my fathers before me:” This immensely meaningful phrase resonates in my head. Its true meaning finally becomes self-evident as I gaze at the portraits before me. I think: I must have heard it spoken sometime ago, and somehow stored each inauspicious word within the annals of this pigheaded brain of mine, disregarding its inevitablity until now.
As this notion pushes through years of stagnant gray matter, and frees itself from the clutches of the endless senselessness in my head, I laugh out loud at how foolish I was for attempting to erase my inherent mannerisms. Who am I kidding? Who was I trying to fool?
Hmmm…what is it I said, all those years ago, as I stood on the front stoop of this very house?
I’ll never be back. I’ll never treat people as you do. I will never be like you.
Yet, I have, I do, and I am.
I trampled on anyone who stood in my way as I climbed my “ladder of success.” I acted with little regard towards anyone’s feelings or station, and ignored those who truly cared about me in the process.
What a fitting reward for my misguided aspirations – this house – this room: This God-awful room. It makes my skin crawl.
Sure, I know that my life has little meaning, and this house reminds me of it over, and over, again. It’s as void as this room is of furniture.
There’s no “special someone” to listen to my agonizing and tumultuous past.
Oh, I've had plenty of lovers: Plenty of men who have shared my bed. But not a single soul to lean on in my time of need, to lend a sympathetic ear, and/or a comforting smile that says, “Everything’s gonna be alright.”
Remorsefully, I lean forward and press my head against the wall in front of me. Closing my eyes, I experience a sort of “bright light” effect: Faces brightly flash by the darkened screen of my closed lids: One after the other, eyes extended and protruding from their sockets, gawking at me. Perhaps, the cute, little gremlins, in a childhood movie that I committed to memory, experienced a similar consequence when the lights were turned on: “Bright light, bright light, bright light.” Someway, somehow, I want to shut the "lights" off. Only my eyes are already closed: Metaphorically, the switch is turned off already - right? Hell, I just want the faces to go away.
The wall violently shudders.
I quickly pull my head away, in a motion that surely suggests the wall is on fire, and scrutinize each picture (From what I perceive is a safe distance, of course).
To my right, only a handful of frames line the entryway into the room. Directly in front of me, however, the wall is completely covered with them – from ceiling to floor - except for a two foot wide by nine feet tall section near the door. About ten paces away, in the corner, and to my left, a newer-looking frame catches my attention. I approach it in a wary manner. Actually, my motions resemble those of someone walking across a blanket of hot coals.
It’s my father’s picture.
With an overwhelming urge to look away, I force my gaze to remain in its/his direction. Those dreadful, sinister, stern, and wicked pools of darkness that have haunted every dream since my youth are, to say the least, disturbing. I distinctly hear his voice, ringing its way through time. It tells me that to my young mind, his incessant reprimands, his unrelenting sarcasm, and the manner in which he doled out punishments had a way of shattering all my hopes and dreams, and smothering each idealistic thought regarding an optimistic future.
"Stop daydreaming. Life is about reality. Dreams aren’t real and they never come true. So, get your head out of the clouds and finish your chores."
"When I tell you to do something, you better do it, and fast."
"What have I told you before? I don’t want to see that drivel you call writing. Do something useful with your time."
There, above a picture of an unknown man and woman that must have been taken in the 20’s – judging by the dress, is the man responsible for giving me life: The man, I consider, wanting of the necessary ingrained elements for “bearing fruit.”
While these thoughts whirl around in my head, I again notice that the frame appears to have been recently purchased. How could that be? No one has lived here, in this house, for ten years.
As my eyes scan the rest of the room’s “occupants,” I ascertain that a few of the other pictures are in similar condition. All of them hang on the opposite wall, and also in the corner.
An eerie chill rips through me as I detect every face's glare upon me. With calculating eyes, they follow my every move through the room: Funny how, normally, pictures have a way of doing that anyway. This does not, however, appease the disconcerting feelings I have.
I return to the spot where my father hangs lifeless and confined to a small 12 by 14 inch space on the wall.
How does it feel father?
How do you like being suffocated by a limited environment?
Suddenly, his picture begins to shake, and all the other framed constituents of the room follow suit. The walls moan from the sheer pressure of the shockwaves. I jump back, and steady my stance. Within seconds, it's over.
Once again, I raise my eyes to meet my father’s. My father’s…my father’s…shit! He’s sitting in the opposite direction. His was painted sitting to the left – his body, in the portrait, was facing the window – now it faces to the right.
What the hell?
My eyes are deceiving me.
It can’t be?
It’s the tension from being in this house again; my eyes are surely playing tricks on me.
Without warning, a horrific sound echoes through the entire room – a sound similar to lumber cracking. It's unbearably loud. I place my hands over my ears to stifle the noise.
I am paralyzed with fear when all the hanging heads in the room turn frontward, simultaneously, the floor, beneath my feet, begins to tremble, and strains the nails positioned there generations ago. Every wooden board in the room sporadically bows up and down, as if being pushed and released by an invisible force.
The floorboards are gonna break.
The sound is deafening.
I need to get the hell out of here.
The room fills with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of voices: From where, or how many, makes no difference. I’m frightened – terrified – as I hear:
“Take her, now.”
Spinning myself in the middle of the room, I attempt to pinpoint the source of these loud, haunting whispers. They’re everywhere: Seeping through the wallpaper, falling from the ceiling, and rising up from the floor.
A sharp pain in my chest brings me to my knees...
And everything fades to black.
As I wake, I’m unaware of how long I’ve been unconscious.
Where am I?
Opening my eyes, I see the same dusty window with chipped paint. Darkness surrounds me on all other sides.
I can’t move my arms.
I can’t move my legs.
Shit! I can’t even move my eyes.
Oh, my God!
My daughter, Eliza, is standing before me holding the hand of my four-year-old granddaughter.
“Look mommy, there’s the picture of grandma.”
Then, I hear my daughter's voice, but her lips aren't moving. I must be listening to her thoughts: “Damn it, mother. Look at what your childish and wicked antics have brought. You’re gone.”
The room trembles.
The pictures all sway back and forth.
“What’s that shaking, mommy?”
“I don’t know, honey.”
I sense a sudden surge of energy, and then, another set of threatening eyes gazing upon me. As I glance towards the wall to my right, I see another face, one that hadn't previously been there. Another damn picture is added to this never-ending Freak Show.
Oh my God, what’s happening here?
I’m in the wall!
I’m a picture on the wall.
The quaking begins again…
And I hear hundreds of voices piercingly murmur:
It’s time. It’s time.
I feel it. I feel it.
No, no, not yet – not yet.
Too young: The little one is too young.
It’s time. It’s time.
I know it.
No, no, no.
My daughter, and granddaughter, must not hear them. For they are still glancing around the room wondering about the ominous vibrations that occurred moments ago.
Please, dear God, don’t let them take my baby – my babies.
Please, not my babies.
I muster up every ounce of energy I have left, and let out a haunting, spine-chilling scream…
My daughter, Eliza, turns as white as a sheet, lifts my granddaughter into her arms, and swiftly exits the room.