PHASMATIS (Short Story)

It began in the highest room of some house.  It was dark and shrouded in what felt like a strong murderous intent—a hot breath on my neck ready to strike.  A deep blackness filled the room and I knew that I was at risk just being there, but the room looked familiar.  In just its shadowy outlines I found myself remembering the layout and furniture therein.  But the darkness terrified me and I had to leave the room quickly.  Ahead I saw a lighter room where the deep darkness had not been and I ran to it.

This room was familiar too, but this time in the darkness I could make out more of the figures.  This room belonged to MY house, or at least the house I was born and raised in until I was in my teens.  Everything remained dark with blue tint, though the room itself was hazy.  I noticed that the dark presence didn’t attempt to follow me.  Was it trapped in that room?  No, I felt it did not want to move—it was letting me wander.  So I continued through the room.

Immediately I noticed the pale naked figures crawling along the walls.  Like spiders they slowly made their way around without giving me a single thought.  I knew they were aware of me, yet neither of us seemed too interested.  I walked on as they slithered up the walls.  I came upon a picture hanging on the wall with four silhouettes.  I couldn’t see the faces, yet I knew this image well.  It was my family.  The wall spread with light from the image and a memory from my childhood played out within the room.  Watching TV with my sister while my parents cleaned up after dinner.  Bugs Bunny reruns and small plastic cups full of Kool-aid.  My mother left the room and my father stayed.  Exactly the way it would be forever from that point on.  I was just a child.

Darkness blanketed the wall again and I noticed another room across the way.  This room was brighter than the one I stood in and the further away from the murderous intent I could be the more comfortable I started to feel.  I progressed onward with the sound of the crawlers’ hands and feet sticking to the walls behind me.

The new location brought more recognizable intrigue from my memories.  This time was a bedroom canvassed in blackness, but easier to see than the last room.  Again two figures lurked on the walls and I noticed as one passed me that within its bald head it had no eyes–just empty black sockets.  Naked and gray they crawled along without making a motion toward me.

It was my bed.  Again from my youth, but this memory was static even when the light brought it to life.  My father called me stupid and his disdain for me after my mother and sister left us would breed hatred and contempt my entire life.  My neighbor came in and tried to console me.  A beautiful girl with light brown skin and dark black hair.  She was my first real crush.  I remember her so fondly as if that latina smile meant the world to me back then.  The dreams of a child can be bitter sweet as we age.  Nothing could tear that degradation from my heart.  We went separate ways that day.  Her optimism would make me sick.

As the room darkened again I noticed another room only this time below at the bottom of some stairs.  A light shown up from them as if inviting me to continue.

I descended the second story and onto the main floor where the darkness again grew lighter.  It was never really bright and yet it was never truly dark.  Just a pale dark gray with dark blue shadows.  No light came from the windows–only blackness.

On the first floor I gazed around the walls until I found a single crawler in the far corner of the room.  It sat there motionless and alone.  Again it ignored me and I it.

In the next turn of my head I found the front door leading to the porch outside. This was a part of the house I moved into after my father remarried.   I glanced out of the window at the darkness and it became a dense gray fog.  In it a light appeared and a memory began to surface.  A conversation with my mother.  The truth about my childhood would be a lie from every angle.  My apathy about what tore our family apart would disappear along with my ability to care about family at all.  I could see her outline and I knew it was her, but her face remained a blurred mess.  Unrecognizable like the rest of my memories, yet somehow I was able to feel who they were.  I tried to look outward beyond the house and off of the porch, but only dark gray mist could bee seen.  The memory ended and I was trapped in darkness once more.

I began to examine the house as it shifted strangely in the absence of light.  The walls creaked as the dark entity surrounded the house.  I felt it but did not see it.  The crawler remained still.

Moving forward I felt compelled to follow the light into another memory.  I walked on into a slightly less dark room where the kitchen came into focus.  It was still shadows and darkness, but no memory occurred.  A light appeared just ahead at the door to a garage.  I knew it was a garage, but I had never had one growing up.  Outside the door the light at the top of the garage barely lit enough to illuminate a memory.  I saw neighbors from across the street dressed warm for the snow.  They expressed their sympathy over something I lost.  The memory only felt familiar, yet I couldn’t remember ever meeting these people.  Their blurred faces meant nothing to me and recalled no names or locations.  Was this really my memory?

When it ended I tried hard to rekindle some spark in my mind as to the identities of those people or the time in my life where this memory was to exist, but nothing appeared.  Only darkness.  The window was dark again and suddenly a light shown from under the door across the way.  The basement.

I wanted to continue, but the last images that I did not remember still haunted my mind.  Where was this place?  What was I supposed to be doing?  I felt as though I should have been searching for something, yet I wandered this house numb and without expectation.  My only goal was to avoid the dark presence which still lurked up above.  I could feel it in that room where all of this began.  Still throbbing with murderous intent.

The light under the door grew brighter and I felt compelled to examine it.  Slowly I stepped toward it.  While turning the knob I realized that there was no feeling in my hand.  No temperature to the metal, nor feeling in my fingers as the muscles tightened to turn it.  I opened it and stepped down into a brightly lit fog.

I was standing on the first step and when I took the next the fog cleared and the stairs stretched infinitely.  The walls extended with them deep down into what looked like a red river.  It twitched and swelled far below surrounded in small pits of dancing light.  Along the walls I saw the crawlers.  Several of them maybe forty total.  All crawling around blindly.  Little specs of motion flickered in the distance and in the river itself and it came to me suddenly what was happening.

It was Hell.

Immediately upon realizing what was before me the crawlers turned their eyeless gaze toward me.  All of them screeched and started to pull things from the walls and throw them at me.  None of them reached the door, but I could sense their anger and quicly stepped back up and closed the door.  When the door closed I knew what had happened.

I was dead.

Backing up slowly I bumped into a darkened chair and turned startled at what had touched me.  The room stayed dark and gray, but in my mind it was an explosion of everything but.  I had become aware of my own existence as nothing more than a spirit wandering the halls of my own memories, but the worst part was that I could not understand why.  What was I supposed to do?  No thoughts seemed to combine into any sense of logic.  Just blurred images and melted feelings that barely rang out across my numb body.  When did I die?

I began to walk into the room just before this one.  When I reached the dinner table that held no memory before it lit up anew with another memory I couldn’t remember.  There were several people at the table and I felt familiarity again though their blurred faces continued to perplex me.  One man’s face was clear.  He was old and bearded with long gray hair tied down his back.  He ate slowly without speaking to the others.  When I tried to get closer to see his face more clearly he glanced up and noticed me.  It was as if he recognized me instantly.

Immediately he began to choke on his food.  He grasped his heart with a twitching hand and stood up frantically staring at me with wide darkened eyes.  I moved closer to him with an overflowing sadness pouring from within my being.  Tears fell from my eyes as he stumbled away from me and out onto the deck behind him that had been opened to let air in.  I ran to catch him before he fell, but instead I was pulled along with him over the edge.  We fell for what seemed like hours with tears streaming from my eyes.  He never stopped looking at me.

He said something muffled under his dying breath and I could not understand him, but I knew he was talking to me.  My body had gone stiff with grief and I told him simply, “I’ll be there soon.”

He died before hitting the ground and I closed my eyes before hitting it myself.  Even if I were dead the sudden fear of impact took over and once again I felt the darkness.

I was back in the first room.  Back where the darkness waited.  That killing intent drenched me in fear and I knew what it wanted.  It wanted my existence to end.  It wanted me to leave this place and move on.  But in my fear I again ran.  I ran to the next room where a subtle light shown.

I felt it become impatient.  It remained in the first room like before, but it’s intentions to murder my soul were spreading.  I started to run through the halls of my memories with one thing in mind–I didn’t want my existence to end.  Even if this place was not living at all I still did not want to end it.

Every gray room I passed now had three or more crawlers lurking on the walls.  I could hear them grinding their teeth as I made my way through the house.  It was as if they noticed me now and were ready to attack at the first opportunity.  The dark presence continued to haunt me until finally I reached the kitchen again where the door to the basement was.

It was cracked open this time.

I started to panic.  The crawlers were surrounding me and the dark being was now blocking  the only way out.  It beckoned me to come to it, but in my fear of death I cowered on the floor.  I couldn’t let it end.  I didn’t want to leave.  I couldn’t let my memories go.

And with my last thoughts of that experience the dark presence left and the house grew darker.  Suddenly the crawlers were upon me–leaping from the walls and onto my body.  They tore me apart in just small pieces at a time.  Their dark empty eyes surrounded my screams until half of my body was dragged into the basement.  The other half was left to wither on the floor of what once was my life.

I saw in my eyes my own body being tortured in hell.  Chained from the neck with only half of its limbs to move with.  A jawless creature of pain and anguish in the boiling river of blood.

And inside the only eye left of that creature of flames was my complete self again on a couch somewhere seemingly real.  A therapist sat next to me as I told this tale to him.  His door read J. CHRIS TURNER, but I did not recognize him at all.  He glanced at me slowly from his clipboard and asked me a question.

“And what do you think this means?”

I thought for a moment, “I’m not really sure.  I…was dead.  I don’t remember how and I don’t remember most of those memories.  But I feel as if they became me…like I couldn’t leave them or I would cease to exist…”

He was silent for a moment as he continued to write.

“After all this…I’m not really sure who I am anymore.”

He looked up from his clipboard.  He placed his pencil down on the table beside him and moved toward me slowly.

He leaned to my ear and whispered, “Who ARE you?”

And in that instant I saw in my eyes the other half of my body that was left to wither on the floor.  Wandering the darkened house of memories for all of eternity. Haunting those who inhabit it with a blind rage and confusion.   A broken demented spirit to never see life again.

This is my hell.



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