After she was certain that Josh was gone, Emily tiptoed out of her house. She sat on the swinging bench in front of her living room window, holding a knitted blanket tightly around her shoulders. Despite the warm night, she found herself shivering beneath her clothing and blanket. She hadn’t stopped shaking since her brother had left.
She recalled the moment she had stepped inside. The oddest thing of all, aside from feeling overwhelmed with fear, was that she had been able to see her breath. The phenomenon was something she had never experienced before, despite the overwhelming number of strange occurrences that had transpired there in the past. The air hadn’t been cold at all, and certainly not frigid enough to turn water vapor into visible droplets of liquid, but her breath had appeared nonetheless, puffing out in slow-moving clouds from her mouth.
Goosebumps had risen over her entire body as she walked through the silent living room, making her skin feel tight over her. She could feel her muscles tensing with each step she took toward the couch. Other than the breath thing, nothing looked out of place or seemed extraordinarily frightening. Still, she had reason to worry that it wouldn’t be long before that changed for the worse. Wrapping her hand around the blanket lying over the end of the couch, she had rushed right back outside again, feeling relieved by even the temporary sense of safety leaving the house had brought her.
Now that Josh was gone, Emily had nothing to do but sit alone outside. She felt scared as she rocked in her chair, dreaming up nightmares of what would attack or hurt her the moment she let it.
The house was evil.
Perhaps, not evil itself, but it was without doubt the birthplace of evil, capable of sheltering the creatures of Hell’s palace. It wasn’t the house that wished to kill her, but the demons called from the other side, the ones that found their way into this dimension through her wooden floorboards, that did. For whatever their reason, whatever purpose it might serve, they wanted her dead.
She would question things in her head. She’d question the demons and think about them more often than she wanted to. Would they ever stop? Would they ever let her alone? Please, just let her alone. Even when she begged for it, no one helped her, no one saved her. How could they when no one ever believed her to begin with? She showed them her wounds and they claimed that she hurt herself. She described the culprit and they claimed she invented him in her mind.
In a circumstance such as this one, what did one do? What did one do when they knew no one would save them? How did they save themselves from something so strong and terrible and unfathomable that the very notion alone was enough to instantly brand a woman mad?
Did those people die?
Was that the simple answer to the simple question? Or was the question so simple it was rhetorical? If a person couldn’t save themselves nor convince the world that she had any reason to be saved, did she die? Was it really that obvious of a thing? The murderer would kill her and she would die. The end. More of a statement perhaps, than a question at all. This thing would kill her and she would die. That was all there was to it.
Sometimes, she believed Josh when he told her she made up the stories. She could only take so much. Eventually, with everyone telling her she was crazy, she was. She was! Let her be crazy, she’d think. Let her be, insane. If that was what it took. She’d tell the whole fucking lot of them she was a complete lunatic if it meant they would listen.
She hated everything about herself.
Shifting in her seat, she pulled the blanket tighter around her. Her cell phone sat next to her on the seat. The swing swung slowly back and forth, the steady sound of creaking coming from the rusting chains holding the chair to the roof of the porch. She felt closer to death. Closer now than ever before.
Something was after her. She had been targeted by these creatures. That much was clear. Bethany had described it as being marked. Bethany claimed that something had left its signature, its fingerprint on Emily’s body, so all would know that Emily was targeted, Emily was marked, and Emily must die. If it weren’t for Bethany saving her those days ago when she was first attacked, Emily would already be dead right now.
Uneasiness followed her wherever she went. It never left her, no matter how far she went from the place. Something would kill her. Whether here or there, then or now, something was going to kill her. If not the thing birthed from her house’s belly then something else. Even if she moved somewhere different, into an insane asylum for example, nothing would change. The mark would never wash clean from her. She’d stay dirty and tainted. A new devil would find life in her sock drawer or her closet.
It wasn’t the house.
The house was evil for birthing the monster but it wasn’t the house. It was her. She was evil. Tainted. Dirty. She was marked. They followed her. It followed her. The dirt. She was the dirt. She was the reason these creatures existed and they existed for the sole purpose of ending her life.
How horrible to know. To know she was cursed and marked and tainted and dirty. How horrible to know she was going to die and there was nothing she could do to stop it. To know no one would save her because they called her crazy and a liar.
She felt colder still. Her teeth began chattering and she pulled the blanket higher so that it was covering her neck and up to her chin.
Josh would take her to the hospital. They’d label her with whatever schizophrenia they believed she had. Then they’d drug her up good and comatose and lock her in a padded room so she wouldn’t hurt herself.
The darkness would follow her there, just as it always did. The gateway to Hell would open from beneath her bed covered in sterile, white sheets. It was always there. Maybe, maybe the gateway wasn’t following her at all then. The darkness didn’t follow her. Maybe she was the darkness. She was the gateway herself. She was the door to Hell’s gate. She let in the demons. Tainted, marked, dirty Emily had brought the demons from Hell to this world.
She felt tears in her eyes. She didn’t want to die. She wanted to stay here with Josh. She wanted to be a mother, an aunt. She wanted to stay and make friends and keep them and know they would worry if she disappeared someplace. She wanted her husband back. She wanted her baby. She wanted things to be like they were before her miscarriage.
Her hand slid over the phone sitting beside her. She wanted to call Josh. Beg him to come get her and promise she’d go straight to the hospital the next day if he did. Lifting it in her hand, she stared at the silver device for a long while, contemplating what to do. If she called, she knew he’d be angry. He’d accuse her of panicking over nothing and tell her to go to sleep.
The screen door to the house slammed open. Emily caught sight of it as it bashed against the aluminum siding, making her jump and drop the phone. She bent down, picking the cell back up and glancing up at the swinging door. Was it the wind?
No, of course it wasn’t.
She waited. Her eyes watched the screen door wavering back and forth, as if arguing with itself which direction it should go. The main door beyond it, the one she remembered closing and locking on her way out, was also wide open now, pushed open inward as far as it could go into the house.
She watched the open doorway carefully. Her eyes moved from the screen door to the main door. Through the gaping dark entrance, she could make out the shadows of her living room, shifting restlessly within the building. Slowly, she began climbing to her feet. She took a step back. The air was quiet around her. Still and quiet. As if everything in the night had died the instant the door flew open.
She had brought the darkness. She was the darkness. No matter where she went, it would follow her. The gateway would always open and bring some new beast to kill her. Carefully, she took another step back, still watching the doorway.
It was coming. Her hand lifted the phone in front of her. She had to call Josh.
A gust of wind blew from inside the house. It blew outward, rushing out from the open entrance, as if breathing out a heavy sigh. Emily looked up from the phone. The swing she had sat on flew forward, slamming into her back and knocking her onto the floor. The cell phone flew from her hand, landing roughly against the wooden planks of the porch and sliding to the other side.
She struggled to climb back to her feet. When she was half-way up again, the swing slammed forward once more, cracking her in the back of the head.
She collapsed on the ground. The place where she had been hit throbbed terribly in a flash of pain and she groaned, her hands moving to her aching skull. She began crawling forward, trying to avoid the swinging seat as it lurched unsteadily back and forth. When she was no longer within its reach, she climbed back to her feet, scooping up her phone and running down the porch steps.
Her feet had just reached the grass when she felt something wrapping around her ankles. All of sudden, her feet had pulled out from under her, and she was knocked forward roughly onto her stomach. The phone flew from her hand once more, landing a few feet in front of her. Spitting out a mouthful of dirt and grass, she turned herself onto her back, her gaze falling on the mess of colorful threads of yarn wrapping themselves around her legs. Her eyes followed them up the stairs of the porch and through the open doorway into the house.
This again? Even when she was outside? The sight shocked her despite her knowledge that something strange would happen that night. Telling herself that something strange would happen was nothing compared to when it actually did happen. She could tell herself again and again to expect the worse, and yet when it came to pass, she found herself a frightened little girl with no idea how to react to the bizarre.
From what she could tell, over a dozen different yarns were worming their way toward her in swift movements, each with a life of its own. It was just like the other night. But the threads weren’t alive. She knew. They were tools. The one controlling the tools was inside the house now.
Leaning forward, she struggled to rip the threads from around her ankles. They were becoming viciously tight around her skin, twisting and grinding into her flesh until blood began to seep out. She managed to free up one leg but more of them came at her, slithering steadily closer from the house. They reached her as she worked on her second leg. She shrieked as they wrapped tenaciously around her body, wrapping around her arms and neck and face. They choked her, moving around her open mouth like a gag and making it hard to breath.
Then the yarn began to pull. Emily felt as she was dragged back toward the house. She struggled against it as hard as she could but they stayed secured around her. She could already make out the dark figure waiting for her inside. The same frightening hellion that had tried to kill her the other night. Her eyes widened with terror as she fought harder against her restraints.
She felt the heavy thumps as she was dragged up each step. Then she was pulled over the threshold and into the living room. The living room itself was a complete tangle of slithering yarn that hung and stretched across every inch of the room. The man stood in the center, watching her as she was pulled inside. He was as frightening as ever. The same one from the other night, the one that looked as if he had been injected with liquid tar. His skin was glossy, a midnight black color and he had wobbly limbs. He wobbled when he moved. He looked as if he made purely of liquid.
She was dragged upright then. The string hung her up in the air, trapping her as if in a giant spider web. The whole thing felt like a giant web, spun in the room with yarn as material. He moved forward. She felt faint. The string was tight against her throat and around her mouth. She couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t think. The creature walked through the web made of yarn, passing through it easily, a dark liquid demon, oozing over and around everything that stood in its way.
Her heart beat faster and faster the closer it came. A spider to its prey. It was over. The murderer would kill her and she would die. No escape. Not this time. No one had saved her. They couldn’t save her if they didn’t believe her.
It stepped up to her. She watched it as it stared at her through the two dents in its head that must’ve been eyes. It lifted two shiny hands, three fingers on each, reaching forward and touching either side of her face. The palms of its hands burned her flesh. They were like fire. She could smell the stench of burnt skin filling her nostrils the moment it laid its hands on her.
The bottom of its face seemed to fall off, making an opening that became its gaping mouth. “Why are you Blessed?” it asked.
She didn’t understand what it was talking about. Its voice was scratchy and harsh, but surprisingly enough, it sounded almost human. Blessed. She had heard that before. The thing had said something like it the other night. What did it mean? She felt dizzy. She was passing out. She couldn’t breathe. The yarn wrapped tighter and tighter around her as she hung there.
It asked again, leaning forward and wrapping hot arms around her. She thought, it actually… sounded sad. Was it… holding her? She felt as if she were comforting it. By letting it hold her, she was comforting it somehow. “Why are you Blessed?”
Even so, she had no idea what it was talking about. The Blessed. She couldn’t breathe. Her lungs ached. It felt like everything hurt in one way or another.
“The Blessed must die. Why are you Blessed?”
Her body hurt. She barely acknowledged those hot hands as they tightened around her already bleeding neck. The fire from them scalded her cuts caused by the string. It shut off her air completely. It strangled her, burning and strangling her with its hot hands.
“Why are you Blessed?”
Her skin smoked. Her skin burned in the fire of his palms. His sad voice disappeared from her ears. Her body hung limp and cold from the tangled yarn, caught in the spider’s web.
She was dead.
Her body had died.
Emily felt herself floating. Floating. Out of her body. Her gaze fell on the corpse and she felt bad at the sight. Her body’s bloodshot eyes bulged from singed skin. Her face was blue from the suffocation and her neck had been squeezed so tightly that the monster had crushed it completely, making it cave inward.
But there no light. No light above to guide her to Heaven. No light to take her to Bethany. No light to take her to where her poor, little baby was.
She closed her eyes, a quiet acceptance falling over her. Deformed shadows pulled themselves from the floor, twisting and shrieking as they moved. They wrapped around her, dragging her downward back with them to Hell. She wouldn’t go to Heaven. She wouldn’t see her baby girl. She was going to be where the Blessed were. To the place where the murdered Blessed were held captive in Hell.